Are You Eligible?

Austin Powers

I was swept back to a number of years ago when I began a psychology degree with the Open University.  Working full time but hungry for knowledge it was time to take the educational leap. I find people absolutely fascinating.  I continually wonder what makes them tick, why people make certain choices and what life events or factors contribute to that.  I was particularly interested to learn more about these components from the viewpoint of a psychotherapist; therefore, psychology seemed the natural choice.

One of my concerns as I began the application process was my memory.  Retaining information and studying itself was tricky at the best of times due to the fact that my brain has a habit of shutting down on a regular basis.  It’s almost like it decides that it’s had enough and it isn’t going to play anymore!  That’s all well and good but when there’s a forthcoming deadline and as much revision, research or writing is required, my brain’s attitude toward this is not ideal!  At that time it became an endless cycle.  Knowing I had a deadline produced stress and then the stress triggered more absence seizures which produced yet more frustration and stress because of the impending deadline and so the cycle continued.

As the application proceeded and I of course divulged the epilepsy I, like many, had never considered that I would be entitled to assistance.  I was advised to contact the department that dealt with the disablility assessments.  I figured I’d give it a whirl as I had nothing to lose.  In the back of my mind I thought I wouldn’t be eligible because I felt the epilepsy didn’t limit me.

The assessment itself was an eye opener.  The questions asked made me completely re-evaluate my original opinions.  I hadn’t taken into account that there would be anything that could improve my situation but it appeared that was not the case.  I was offered a Dictaphone along with a microphone and various accessories to record lectures.  If seizures occurred, I wouldn’t miss important information as I could revisit the lecture.  I had a number of computer software programs installed onto my computer with an additional top notch book scanner.  This allowed me to scan the text book pages and the computer software had the ability to read out the pages once scanned so I wouldn’t constantly be looking at the computer.  Half of a new laptop was paid for (I never quite understood that one, but it certainly wasn’t to be sniffed at!).  All in all I was amazed that they were providing so much.  It had a very positive impact and studying became much easier.

So with that in mind, I was curious to see if the government offered any other benefits for those who weren’t technically classed as disabled but had conditions which limited them in certain areas.  My first port of call was transport.  Having had epilepsy since I was three, driving has never been an option as I’ve never been seizure free since the age of eleven.  I travel on public transport and so I strolled down to the train station to rummage around for material.   Once again my findings were fruitful.  I had to attain a form to take to my general practitioner who would complete and confirm my condition.  Lucky for me he did but not of course without a fee!  With this complete, I was saving a third off travel so my grumbles didn’t last too long.  With travel in England getting more expensive by the year this was absolutely invaluable.  Not limited to the UK I’ve also been successful with this process in the US.

Depending on the circumstances there may be more or less of entitlement and for a variety of benefits including financial.  I was always of the attitude that I didn’t really need it and someone else would benefit far more.  It was only when a number of family and friends alerted me to the fact that I actually am entitled because I live with epilepsy and it does affect my daily life.  It isn’t about greed but weighing up what aspects I could benefit from support and if available, to pursue obtaining that assistance.  If you ask, there will be no ‘what if’s’.

My wish for the system is that people are reviewed on their individual circumstances.  I hear too often that general practitioners try to compartmentalize patients by having precise prerequisites.  If a patient’s situation doesn’t conform to those, they are ineligible for help and many suffer because of that.  It’s not just epilepsy; this applies to many conditions which are accompanied with limitations.  It’s another area where awareness needs to be heightened, recognized by the government and then adapted to offer people the support that many desperately need.


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