As you might already know from previous posts, I have been suffering with mental health issues most of my life. Whilst I was at university I managed to get a lot of my mental health issues under control to a certain extent, yes they were clearly still there, but they were not as bad as they had been. However since graduation and moving back home I have spent the vast majority of that time being unemployed and on job seekers allowance benefit. Gradually I have found my mental problems getting worse again. Partly this is due to living back at home with my parents after having got used to my independence at university, but the main factor is the ongoing unemployment. Months and months of ongoing rejection from employers is going to get most people at least somewhat down. Knowing that I am trying my hardest at every application form or cover letter I send and am being the best that I can be at interviews, but never get the job starts to make you doubt your self-worth as a person. Right now however the thing most effecting my mental well-being is job seekers allowance.
I have anxiety issues, which are flaring up. It is the not knowing from one day to the next what I will be doing. This time next week I could have a job (although at this rate I doubt it), but also I keep getting sent to various places by the job centre. Sometimes I get sent on courses, and recently I was sent on mandatory work activity. This makes it hard to make any plans in advance. For example do I agree to help look after my nephew next week so my sister-in-law can do work or not.
Mandatory work activity is when you have to go and do a community work placement to earn your job seekers, although they dress it up as work experience for your CV. In reality this usually amounts to working in a charity shop for four weeks. If you have no work experience on your CV at all, I can see this as being quite helpful, but I already have experience, including volunteer work in a charity shop. Then there is the issue that you can’t just go and work in any charity shop, it has to be one that is signed up to the work placement scheme that you are placed with by the company who do this on behalf of the job centre. Not that many charities are signed up to the scheme and quite a few charity shops have dropped out due to bad publicity for taking part in it or realising what they were taking on was basically forced volunteers. Some places found that the client gets no say as to which charity they work for, so they could end up working for a cause they do not even believe in or care about. My placement ended up going wrong when after two days the manager of the shop had to admit she already had too many willing volunteers and not enough work for us all. They tried to place me elsewhere, but that proved tricky due to the lack of shops left in the scheme, so I had to wait each day not knowing when or if they would place me again. Then the next placement went wrong when they had too many of us starting at once and I decided to open my big mouth about how I was feeling towards the scheme. I have always had issues with speaking my mind too freely, whether this is due to my high functioning autism or not I do not know. I felt like I had done well to only say what I did and knew I could have said much worse, but the woman in charge did not see it that way and I was told the company would no longer be placing me on any work activity, so in effect I was banned from mandatory work activity. I was told the job centre would be informed of what happened and I could be sanctioned. I then had to wait the whole weekend till I signed on to find out if they would cut off my only source of income for up to thirteen weeks or not. Not only did I feel very anxious, but I felt totally depressed about it. Like once again society had rejected me and now I could just have messed up my entire life. I have anger issues which were surfacing again and I started to take out my frustration and anxiety on my parents who I live with. I was yelling at them for silly minor things that did not matter and I was blaming then for things they had no control over. I spent a whole day crying, sleeping and doing very little, mostly in my bedroom feeling utterly dejected. I hated not knowing if I was going to get paid my next fortnight job seekers or not, I hated knowing I could get the blame from my advisor. I had tried to do my first work placement and turned up to the second one. I had done every other thing the job centre had sent me on or asked me to do and would be quite annoyed after all that to have my money stopped. I worried that I might even regress further and end up having one of my full on temper blow-outs like I used to have, at the job centre advisor who informed me about a sanction. They did not end up sanctioning me yet at least, but I am still not sure if they will later when my file is updated.
I have spent so much time in the last two years worrying about what the job centre will say when I have not applied for many jobs that fortnight or when I have had an interview and yet again failed to get the job. I know that I tried to find work to apply for, but there simply was not any work I could do, however job centre staff still make me feel like it was my fault. I then go away and feel like maybe it is my fault. I hate being depressed on and off like this as I do not know when it will resurface next and I feel like giving up trying. Job seekers allowance has made me feel like I have lost control somewhat over my own life and now I feel like it is stealing my control over my own emotions at times. I do not want to feel angry or depressed every two weeks after sign on or an appointment with my advisor. I do not want to be anxious about it. I would just like to feel in total control of myself again.