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.

Where we at?

Got a rental inspection this Tuesday so tidying up. Yeah it’s soon, but I’ve generally had one a month after moving into a new place. We’ve already got it to a way better cleanliness standard than what we moved into, and Bruce has done amazing things in the yard. So as long as they don’t care about the burnt patch of lino from my little fire day two here, all it good. Sounds like Bruce’s kids and their mum finally have to move out of their place, so I’m crossing my fingers and toes for them to find a suitable rental.

Nobody Deserves Poverty

Still no internet. Called TPG this morning at the suggestion of NBN to see if there was any sooner install dates, no there isn’t Feb 29 is sooner than any others that are available – March 11 is where you’d be booked in for now. I also asked for a wireless dongle and they’re sending one with 60gig a month for three months on it – it’s more for Bruce than for me, his phone either isn’t liking being tethered all the time or was dying either way.

Trying to do little things that are really big things to work towards my goals this year. Got a busy Valentine’s Day coming up with the Kflay concert I’ve been dying for down at the Oxford Arts Factory! Gotta figure out how to do the Antipoverty Centre AGM before that – prolly just on my phone and get to Sydney early or something. We’ll see. I’m putting myself forward for a board role, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m actually nominating ahead unlike basically gatecrashing the AUWU AGM and elections and being relieved I missed out on the ordinary member role on their committee of management. Those selected are awesome and certainly deserved it.

One of the things I said I want to be able to do is go down to Sydney for things and be safe and sober and trust myself and be trusted by my partner. It’s been nearly three years since I’ve had a drink, and don’t really want to. But not yet to the point of coming off the Antabuse. Maybe this year.

Looks like I’m going to be doing more on the Nobody Deserves Poverty campaign this year too, at least up until the May Budget. Most Australians don’t think anyone does deserve to live in poverty, but seem to still excuse their politicians keeping welfare payments below the poverty line, so hopefully we can get more mainstream discussion on that (ugh, Facebook), get people talking about it and too their reps, get more organisations to sign on and push for welfare rates to be lifted above the poverty line in the May Budget. ALL payments, because yes, Jobseeker and Youth allowance are appallingly low, but carers, parenting and pensions are also still below the poverty line. A rising tide lifts all ships. And we need more voices of Welfare recipients in pollies’ ears when they’re still making comments about $180k not being a lot…

Nobody Deserves Poverty

We sold the AU so we now have money to repair the other Ford. And I can justify going full Hello Kitty on the Corolla. If you wanna help with the HelloKittyfication, there’s some items on my wishlist that would be sweet additions. That also means that some days I’m carless so really miss the NBN more and can’t wait til Feb 29 and decent internet and streaming my favourite games – hunting wabbits in Red Dead online and grinding in GTA. I have a couple of games I’ve downloaded to play offline, but I miss those one s in particular.

Opinion Pieces Wednesday, 19th January 2022 No one left behind in Labor blueprint for better future First published in the Australian on Jan 18 2022

I just cried to the TPG lady. How are you?

Suppose I’m due for a blogging brain dump, might as well start with how I just cried to the TPG lady because my internet install isn’t until Jan 8, and I read the text as today because you’d assume the internet would be installed the week you said you were moving house.

*breathe*

So we’re currently tethering on our Aldi sims with the excessive amount of accumulated data we have on our family plan. The plan that just went up from $80 to $95 a month because of course it did.

So, the move is actually going okay. Most stuff was moved in the truck Tuesday. The new place was dirrrrrty including a sly sprouting potato in the cupboard. But you know, we’ll leave our old place spotless because that’s how it works. I removed the last of the items from the main house yesterday, and decobwebbed and vacuumed. Next step for me is wall washing, bathroom scrubbing and bleaching and kitchen cupboards and oven, So I’ll head back Sunday armed with cleaning products and dig in. Tomorrow is supposed to be 41 degrees so we MIGHT get the carpet cleaner and do the only two rooms with carpets because they have the aircon. But aside from that, I’m clearly exhausted, plus I’m sore from rolling my ankle moving boxes the other day. And I did 20k steps yesterday on said ankle.

So everything feels hard, I keep feeling like I’m going to get in trouble for something. But I’m setting up my little house. Set up the coffee yesterday morning. Found everything to make dinner last night – despite having already tried to burn the place down and setting a box on fire I sat on the stop and the stove had been knocked on. So I’m down some kitchen items, like a vege peeler, some knives whose handles caught, and my cutlery tray. Ugh. So, yeah, the fire alarms work, but three people stayed in bed.

So I’ll hopefully get down to the community centre and op shop in Cooranbong next week before they close for the Xmas break and can replace some of the kitchen stuff and pick up a few other things. I think their food bank closes Thursday. I stocked up on short dated chocolates at the little church one near the old place yesterday that has its last week next week til school goes back in February.

If anyone’s feeling generous and wants to buy us some things for the new place off our wishlist the house one is here and mine is here. The kids could do with more size 3 nappies, bub is 4 months old now and growing well! Also my new monitor did NOT survive the move :'( Not that it matters if I don’t have a proper internet connection. My “plan” is to get back to streaming and practicing Japanese on Duolingo and Twitch in the new year, and find my happy little routine in the new place. There’s a local fish shop and butcher next to it and I’m hoping to be able to get us fresh meat and seafood there and have it with veges that are in season and either in the fruit and veg box I’ve got the first one coming today from Farmer’s Pick, with supplemented excess veges from OZharvest when I figure out the local foodbank hours and routine. I got a bag of frozen pies from the Woodrising community centre yesterday which the kids have already started on which is good because then they’re eating something at least. I’m supposed to be doing more for me and less for others. Let’s see how that goes!

17 days til Xmas

Speak BECAUSE your voice shakes – and because you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t

So it looks like the major parties are still running their little dirt files on people they don’t like. Of course, in direct contradiction to the recommendations of the Robodebt Royal Comission, they’re still happily digging what they see as dirt to discredit the welfare class.

Last night it was Kristen’s turn. Kristen is part of the Antipoverty Centre, and guess what, they’re not affiliated with any political party. And yeah, Kristen may have once been active in the Greens, but she left them before they even had good welfare policies.

The Antipoverty Centre is a new organisation established in May 2021 to counter problems with academics, think tanks, charities, bureaucrats and others in the political class making harmful decisions on behalf of people they purport to represent.

We are a collective of activists, advocates and researchers with direct, contemporary experience of poverty and unemployment. We have deep expertise in poverty because we live it. We defend and fight for the rights of people like ourselves who experience violence at the hands of an economic system designed to oppress us. It is our mission to shift how people speak about and respond to poverty and unemployment in this colony.

We work closely with peer support groups, activists and grassroots civil society organisations to complement their work. Our goal is to help ensure the voices and rights of people on the lowest incomes are at the centre of social policy development and discourse. We believe there should be no decision made about us without us.

The Antipoverty Centre is not aligned with any political party and does not accept funding that places political constraints on our work.

So, as part of Kristen’s work, so often has media appearances. Kristen is eloquent in her criticism of all political parties and draws on her experiences as a disabled woman – she’s on the DSP and has NDIS supports that have been hard-fought for – to present at parliamentary committees and talk on the radio. Yes, her voice shakes, and I’ve seen her cry, but that’s the thing about lived experience experts – we’re here because things have been and continue to be painful and we want better for ourselves and others. We don’t necessarily care if we personally get the extra money in our Centrelink payments, we want to see everyone rise up with us. And if that means putting ourselves out there for criticism, so be it, but it needs to be be FAIR criticism.

Yes, Kristen has volunteers for the Greens at a high level, yes, Ricci formerly worked for ACOSS. But those things don’t lessen their current experiences of this torturous welfare system or the fact that it’s broken and Labor and the Liberals want to keep it that way.

Forgive me for being a member of the Greens. I’ve been on the local council ballot too and I may well again if day to day life isn’t too much of a struggle next cycle, so if you want to discredit me use that. Oh and I’ve had well paying jobs in the past, before my mental health and alcohol caught up with me. So it’s my fault I’m in this position being on DSP and wanting better for myself and my loved ones. yes, we get defensive, but my friends are just defending their right to exist, to survive on the meagre offerings of this system, without having to put up and shut up. We want better things to be possible for ourselves and for everyone else. Even you, if you fall on hard times, because remember you’re only not disabled until you are.

Media watch should practice what it preaches. tell us who gave the “tip off” about Kristen’s Green past… was it Labor? or was it your own little dirt diggers? Tell the dirt diggers that the ABC offered to pay for my accommodation to get me down for round two on QANDA with Jim Chalmers, but they offered at 2pm and I didn’t have the spoons to get to Sydney that night, expenses paid or not. You’re happy to use us when it suits you, so let us speak about what we live and breathe every day.

Can’t eat resilience – Labor’s Budget had no pleasant surprises

Good morning. Happy Budget Boxing Day, how’s the hangover? There’s not enough water in the world to wash away the fact that people on welfare payments got exactly what was promised and what was expected from Labor’s budget – nothing. A few comments about us being lucky to even be getting the upcoming CPI increases to payments, that cheaper childcare will help somehow, that more free tafe places will help people get into work even though all their other qualifications haven’t. More language about rorts in the NDIS and expected blowouts demonising the wrong people.

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For sure, if I was corporate Fiona from this photo I found last night, I’d be benefitting from the promised 6 months paid parental leave (because I still thought I’d be having kids back then). Any promises around childcare were welcomed as she watched speech pathologists and occupational therapists unable to return to work with the long waiting lists in Canberra daycare. She’d be happy with the reduction in maximum PBS medicine costs since she was working and didn’t have a health care card, Her partner had property and she was aspirational. But then, reality took hold and we are where we are now.

I remember getting the small tax cuts back in Howard’s final years. $10 here and there.  Working in community services and health, we all lamented that they should keep the money and invest it in health and education, but we dutifully spend it on latte’s at Coolo.

Labor never promised any raises to Centrelink payments, in fact they backtracked from any talk about them from the 2019 election thinking that the voters didn’t like them pormising anything good. They walked them back to we’ll have a review and maybe look at a real raise in 2024. Which is about when they project real wages to start going up in relation to inflation. In the meantime? We get to remember Labor’s greatest complaints about the LNP and how none of them could ever survive on JobSeeker, but there’s literally nothing in the budget for those on payments. Correct me if I’m wrong, PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong!

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These photos? They’re from a blogger event in Sydney in 2012. It was for Kleenex Cottonelle and we broke pintrest because we were trying to pin too many things at once. A wonderful greenwashing promo. That was when i was an Aunty blogger, or a food blogger, depending on who was paying for drinks. I’m wearing the last pair of glasses I bought from a shop in Australia, they set me back $700. $200 for the frames, $500 for the lenses, and from then on it was Chinese online glasses all the way.

I dug out these pics because I got a bursary to attend the Black Dog Institute‘s Summit on Self-Harm in Sydney on November 10 as a person with lived experience of self harm and the mental health system. It’s at Doltone House, the same venue as the Contonlle event, I thought it looked familiar when I was planning the early morning train trip down! I’m really really excited! It’s going to be a huge day, with a 7.30am start, so, a snooze on the 4.51am train down and coffee on arrival please and thankyou! If I recall correctly it was well catered, so I hope they still are!

So, now to plan my days around having the spoons for the summit, for taking it in, for networking and holding conversation with some amazing researchers! The program looks great!

But what do I wear???