Empowertising is a word coined by Andi Zeisler to refer to the coopting of political and social movements by corporations to sell products.  And is now one of my favourite words.  I have had so many rants about this and it’s great to have a word to describe what I mean.  Although it saddens me that such a word is needed…

Think Dove’s Real Beauty campaign.  Their own website says, “Our body image takes such a battering that feeling beautiful can be hard – in fact, sometimes we just can’t see beauty in ourselves at all. We think our self-esteem is in serious need of a boost.  The problem is, we’re so bombarded by unattainable standards of beauty – in magazines, TV, adverts, on social media – that we undervalue the true beauty in ourselves.”  Which sounds great.  And totally true.

It’s a shame they are the ones selling us unattainable standards of beauty.  On the same page, there are links to:

  • 6 poses you’ll need when you forget your deodorant – perish the thought that you get caught doing something as utterly unnatural as sweating…
  • 6 tactics to get underarms you love – this is something which really bugs me.  Just a few years ago, I don’t think most people even considered what their underarms looked like.  I still remember the first advert I saw which was a dove advert suggesting to viewers that they should be concerned.  This product suggested that you needed to be concerned with how dark your underarms are and use their whitening deodorant to compat this “problem”.  This is how they sell products, they create insecurities which weren’t there to start with and magically provide the solution.
  • Invisible confidence boosters: exposed  – which turns out to be a list of products because you can of course buy anything, including your very own spritz of confidence…  although if it wasn’t for companies such as dove, you might not need your confidence boosting quite so much…

We also have to remember that Dove is owned by Unilever who also sell products such as skin whitening creams in India.  They created a Facebook app to let users whiten their skin in photographs. Unilever also own Lynx which are reknowned for their stereotyping of women and turning them into sex objects.  As a major international corporation, Unilever sell many many products under many many brands, these are just a couple of examples of their hypocrisy.

Whatever they say, they do not care about supporting people to love the body they have.  They do instead care very much about making that body something which needs fixing.  This is consumerism in all it’s nasty glory.  This is not a body positive, feminist, women loving campaign.  This is coopting a movement to sell products.  This is empowertising.

And empowertising has been going on for a long time.  Zeisler provides a brief skip through the history in her article.

“The history of drawing on feminist language and theory to sell products has been driven by the idea that female consumers are empowered by their personal consumer choices—indeed, that choice, rather than being a means to an end, is the end itself.

The idea that it matters less what you choose than that you have the right to choose is the crux of “choice feminism,” whose rise coincided with the rapid, near-overwhelming expansion of consumer choice that began in the 1980s.” B*tch

And choice feminism is something I shall come back to at a later date…

This has turned into a bit of a rant about dove and unilever but they are very very much not the only company to do this, they just happen to be a very large company and the dove “campaign” got particularly under my skin…


Being single 

warning: rant ahead

I recently got copied into a letter from a specialist to my doctor which, in the first sentence, described me as “a single woman”.

Now, I feel my condition, my pain and my quality of life might be more relevant given the context but it was a reminder of just how important my relationship status is to other people.

If I was living with a partner, I have no doubt that my care support would be, or attempted to be, decreased as a result. My benefits might change as well. Especially if I was in America:

from bitch magazine

My worth is still somehow related to my relationship status.  Which, as someone who has spent most of their life not in a romantic/sexual relationship, I find really hard to understand.

A brief history of my relationships:

I was a clever, quiet teenager who hung out in the library and even if anyone I knew had been attracted to me, there was no way they would have admitted that to anyone.

When I was 17 someone finally expressed some interest in me.  We went on a date.  He kissed me and it was awful.  But he was the first person to tell me I was beautiful.  And my self esteem was horrifically low.  I thought this was the best I was ever going to do.  And that message was one that had been reinforced over and over again along with the message telling me my worth was dependant on my relationship status or my desirability.

So we stayed together for 18 months.  Which included me giving in to his regular requests to feel me up in the dark whilst we were parked down a lane… He wouldn’t take me back to his and he wouldn’t meet my friends at uni…

He told me I couldn’t dye my hair purple, I couldn’t get my ear pierced unless it was my lobes, he didn’t want me going on the pill… But he told me he loved me.  I hadn’t heard that very much.  He told me I was beautiful.  He told me he cared about me and had our future planned out.  But he wouldn’t spend the 30p or whatever a stamp cost ten years ago to post me a birthday card.  He wouldn’t ring me because it cost money.  He dragged me to a comedy night despite me hating the idea and told me to pull myself together when I inevitably had a panic attack.

But he loved me and he told me he loved me and I’d never had that from anyone.

Thankfully we broke up.

My relatives waited on tenterhooks to be told that we were back together.  Because in their eyes, a relationship was the be all and end all and they couldn’t comprehend that I wouldn’t go back to him or jump into the arms of the next person immediately.

A couple of years later I met my second partner who was far far better for me.  We lived together for a while and when we parted, my relatives again expected us to get back together.  We’re still really good friends and he’s still a really important part of my life.  But we’ve been there, done that and it didn’t work out in the end.  This relationship was a lot healthier than my first but with hindsight, I know that I was controlling and possesive which came from fear.  Not of our relationship but a fear that something would happen to him.

And other than mild flirtation and an awkward online date, that is pretty much that.

Being single

I actually really like being single.

I like my own space.

I like not answering to anyone.

I like knowing that the mess in my flat is my own mess.

I love having a bed to myself.

I love being able to keep my own hours and fall asleep at 8 if that’s what my body needs, without feeling like I should try and stay awake for the other person.  Or being awake from 1am till 4am and listening to my audiobook without bothering anyone.

I love how well I’m getting to know myself.

I love not worrying about the other person (which I mean in a healthy way).


There are disabled people in relationships who are being penalised for loving someone so much they want to live together and that is not ok.  As with the impact of marriage in America (see image above), if I were to have someone move in with me, my support would be affected.

Social services would probably expect them to meet some of my care needs and thus reduce the support I get.  It would certainly be much harder to get overnight care if/when I need it.  And my benefits entitlement would be affected.  Which I think is utterly horrific.

As I mentioned in a previous post, people with disabilities are more vulnerable to abuse and this assumption that a partner will pick up care responsibilities and the change in benefits exacerbates that risk.  Defining people by their relationship status is potentially dangerous and certainly complicated.

And to the doctor who felt my relationship status was more important than my health, screw you.  Whether I am in a relationship or not, I am and will remain, much much more.

Attitudes towards disabled people

I live in a bubble.  Most of the people I talk to live in a bubble.  We surround ourselves with people with similar views, values, thoughts.

But we need to get out of our bubble from time to time or we miss some of the major problems in our society.

I’m willing to bet that almost everyone I know considers themselves to be accepting of disabled people.  I am willing to bet that almost everyone I know considers disabled people to be of value.


“A poll in June 2010 by the leading social care organisation Turning Point of over 1,000 members of the public found that nearly a quarter of those polled believed that disabled people should live in institutions, and nearly one in ten that they should be cared for out of town, in a secure hospital. One-third of those surveyed believed that disabled people could not live independently or undertake employment.”

(as quoted in Scapegoat by Katharine Quamby, I couldn’t find the original report)

Another survey, four years later found that:

Two thirds (67%) of the British public feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people.

Over a third (36%) of people tend to think of disabled people as not as productive as everyone else.

Over four fifths (85%) of the British public believe that disabled people face prejudice.

A quarter (24%) of disabled people have experienced attitudes or behaviours where

other people expected less of them because of their disability.

Over three quarters (76%) think of disabled people as needing to be cared for, and 13% think of disabled people as getting in the way some or most of the time

Just a third (33%) of British people said that they would feel comfortable talking to disabled people, with many worried that they will seem patronising or say the wrong thing

2014 report from Scope

Two thirds of people wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to me.  One in ten people want to lock me in a secure facility outside of town.


And these are real people.  People who exist outside my bubble.

But sit them down at a table with me (preferably a table which hides the wheelchair and splints) and I really struggle to see how they’d then think I should be hidden away in the countryside.

13% of people think I get in the way… I have to say, I think they get in my way more than the other way around…

Again, as quoted in Scapegoat:

A recent poll from the charity Scope found that nearly 40% of people who are not disabled and do not have a disabled family member do not know any disabled people [that they are aware of…].

Only one in ten British people has ever invited a disabled person to their house for a social occasion, and only one in five has had a disabled work colleague.

(italics mine)

From my own experience I’m regularly treated as stupid, unable to communicate and childlike.

I have had carers who have obviously felt superior to me simply because they have better use and control of their limbs.  One of them talked to me using baby talk… (and nearly got a kick in the face when she tried to put on my “sockie wockies”…)

In shops, I am regularly ignored whilst strangers talk to my friend or carer.  The assumption being my wheelchair makes me unable to communicate effectively.

Strangers speak to me loudly and clearly, if they speak to me at all.  And they assume that I am public property.  They have a right to ask personal questions about my disability.  They have a right to move my wheelchair without telling me or asking me.

I had one guy try and help take off my coat.  I didn’t even know he was behind me.  He didn’t say anything just grabbed my sleeve…

I am routinely ignored and stared at in equal amounts.  I am pitied and praised, by strangers, simply for living.

Where do these attitudes come from?

For a more comprehensive answer, try a book like Scapegoat.  But for a quick run through of possibilities…

It’s not long ago that disabled people were locked away. Out of sight out of mind.  So society hasn’t had long to get to grips with, and understand, visibly disabled people.  The move away from institutions was around the 1970s and 80s.

There is research that disability hate crime is linked with poverty and deprivation.  Pressure on resources (which is especially high in poorer areas) leads to a pressure to find a scapegoat and disabled people often find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order.

A mix of government pressure on people to work and stigmatisation of people who do not work as well as propaganda which perpetrates the myth of the benefits scrounger.  Again, disabled people are at the bottom of the hierarchy of benefits claimants.

Attitudes may arise from, and crimes may be committed out of, ignorance, prejudice, power and fear of disability.  Becoming disabled can happen to anyone and thus disabled people make none disabled people face their own mortality simply by existing.  We’re powerful beings!

There is a weird jealousy of the ‘privileges’ of being disabled – disability benefits, blue badges, adaptations and people assume that disabled people are getting given things left,right and centre which is so far from the truth.

Images portrayed of disabled people tend to be unfavourable – whether it’s a film which uses disability as a shortcut for saying bitter and evil (think captain hook), or charities displaying us as pitiful and needy in order to raise money.  Even when they are more positive, such as the paralympians, they are not always helpful depictions – we can’t all be paralympians!

If you happen to be one of the 67% of people who feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people, please reflect on why.  And think about what you would say.  Asking about the disability is really not necessary.  Try the weather or a grumble about the length of the queue. 

Things which make my day easier

Someone recently found my blog by looking for “ehlers danlos can’t open jars” and I hope they found some help (try dycem jar and bottle openers).  I wrote a post in 2014 (2014, can you believe it?!) with some tips for stuff which really helps me. Anyway, a lot has changed since then so I wanted to write an updated version.

Collection of drinking vessels
a collection of my cups, a cup cover and one of my hot drink straws

If you find this helpful, do check out the 2014 post as it all still holds up.

  • Tablet and tablet stand – these were included in my last post and I still love my tablet and use it so so often throughout the day.  It’s my contact to the world.  It’s my books and my storytellers.  It’s my calendar.  It’s my notebook.  It’s my teacher.  It’s my alarm clock.  It’s my tv.
  • Pillows – find pillows that work for you.  I have two standard bed pillows and a, rather pricey but worth it, U shaped pillow.  It’s filled with beans so it squishes and my shoulders have dislocated a lot less since I got it as they are now supported at night.
  • Mattress raiser – I got mine through the local council.  Basically it goes under your mattress and allows you to raise the head end of the bed like a profiling bed would using a remote.  This makes it so much easier for me to get in and out of bed, more comfortable when I’m in bed but wanting to sit up and it’s easier for my carers to get me out.  The combination of this plus my mattress topper means that I have king size sheets for my double bed.  Much easier for my carers to get on and less likely to twang off in the night!
  • Bed wedges – there are lots of different options, I have one which supports my knees and ankles
  • Duvet raiser thingy which keeps the duvet off my feet (the weight of my not very heavy duvet is enough to hurt my ankles and dislocate my toes).  I have my thingy attached to my bed using a strap which goes round the mattress and I have a blanket pegged over the top, round the sides and the end of the bed so my toesies don’t get chilly!
  • Overbed table – I got mine for a bargain price of £3 at my local second hand furniture place.  It gives me a place to put things like meds, my tablet etc so that they’re essentially in my bed but not going to fall prey to my tossing and turning.  I have a tray on top of mine which has the advantage of making it look less clinical whilst the edges stop things falling off.
  • Key safe – this means that my friends and carers can let themselves into my flat if they know the code to the key safe.  In my old flat I kept my spare keys in a combination lock locked shed.  It means I don’t have to get out of bed to let my carers in and it’s there in an emergency so other people can get into my flat.
  • Cutlery – I can now only use my bent spoon to eat, anything else causes too much pain or is impossible.  You may find spoons easier than using a knife and fork or maybe just need a thicker handle.
  • Plastic crockery – this is lighter and obviously less breakable.  I have some nice bits from Cath Kidston, paperchase and I got some in the BHS closing down sale.
  • Cups and drinking accessories (what you don’t accessorise your drinking? how last season are you…?!)
  • Trolley – this lets me move a lot of stuff from room to room at once, reducing the need for multiple trips as well as reducing risks of dropping things and lessening the pain in my hands
  • Plug pulls – a little bit of plastic which attaches to your plugs to make them easier to pull out, genius!
  • My pouch – I love my pouch.  It holds my tablet, my money, my keys etc.  And because it isn’t an actual bag, it squishes down beside me in the wheelchair so I can get to the important stuff.
  • Hairbands – especially wide fabric ones and headscarves are perfect for bad hair days, weeks when you’ve not managed to wash it etc.  And dry shampoo is also helpful here!

I’ve included links to help illustrate what I mean.  I don’t get any money from the companies and obviously you should shop around and find what works for you.  You may also be able to get some of these things through your local community equpiment service (in the UK at least).



Disability and poverty

The links between disability and poverty are complex but they are very connected.

Disability causes poverty and poverty causes disability.

Disability is one of the key indicators for living in poverty.  In 2013, it was estimated that 40% of disabled children and a third of disabled adults lived in poverty in the UK.

This is a pretty bleak post but I think it’s important that people start thinking about the details. 

Living in poverty is awful in many many ways but government policies and people’s attitudes towards poverty are disabling people as you read this.  And more than that, they are making disabled people more vulnerable to futher disability. 

Unless we look at the different factors, risks and influences, we will not be able to stop this cycle.

Disability causes poverty

This side of the circle seems more obvious or more intuitative I think.

Being disabled is expensive

Life costs £550 more on average a month if you happen to be disabled (Scope).


You may not be able to work which leaves you dependent on benefits or possibly a pension for your income.  In my case, I get a pension and some Personal Independence Payment.  But because my pension is above my allowable cost of living, anything over £12,000 goes straight on my care.  Thus meaning that despite paying into my pension, I still find myself below the minimum income standard (for a non disabled person).

In 2016, single people need to earn at least £17,100 a year before tax to achieve the MIS, and couples with two children at least £18,900 each. – Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Work hours

If you can work, your disability may affect the hours and types of work you’re able to do and thus restrict your income.

The same is true if you have a disabled child – there are appointments to go to etc and if you’re on a zero hours contract then you have few rights.  Also if you have a disabled child, you may (you shouldn’t, but you may), find childcare costs are higher or you just can’t find someone to look after your child (again, you shouldn’t but…).  You may end up unable to work because of your child’s needs.

Relationship stress

Having a child with a disability can place stress on the parents relationship and relationship breakdown can be a factor in causing poverty.

Reduced educational opportunities

Time out of education, due to ill health or appointments etc, can impact on a disabled child’s educational attainment which can then affect earning potential as an adult.  As can other barriers to education.  Perhaps your local school doesn’t have wheelchair access so you are forced to go to a different, lower quality but level access school.  Or your school has poor support for dyslexia etc.  All of this will effect your performance and hence your job opportunities and earning potential.


The infrastructure also plays a part in work and living costs.

Inaccessible work places mean that disabled people don’t have the same opportunities as none disabled people.  Yes, employers are expected to make reasonable adjustments but there isn’t very much an office on the third floor of a very old, tiny building are going to be able to do to get my wheelchair to the office.  There’s also transport issues – if you can’t drive, you’re probably reliant on public transport to get you to work which again limits which jobs you can consider.  You may be unable to move home because of limited accessible housing so you have to look for jobs on your doorstep.

Ever tried getting across London in rush hour?  Now add in a wheelchair… Firstly that would be painful and it’d take longer and there’s the stress of the crowds.  If you want to use the tube, depending on which stops you needed, you’d have to get assistance to get on and off…  And then there’s all the tube stops which are still not accessible…

If you need to get to a medical appointment but the bus or train isn’t accessible or isn’t reliably accessible (think only half the buses having access), then you can find yourself forking out for a taxi just for the peace of mind.

I’m attending a free art class for people with mental health issues and whilst it’s only the other side of town, when it starts to get cold and icy I know I will have to pay the £10+ in taxis to attend.  I can’t get the bus because the bus route means I’d basically have to virtually get to the venue before getting on a bus.  And I can’t wait around in the cold hoping for a bus to arrive on time and with the wheelchair space free.  The cost in terms of my health make that a no go.


Stigma and prejudice also affect disabled people’s affluence.  If you go for an interview and the interviewer assumes you’re incompetent because of your disabiliy, you’re unlikely to get the job.  If you have a job and a prejudice manager, you’re probably more at risk of getting fired (even if it’s an unrelated reason).  If walking down the street means you get spat at, you’re probably not going to be especially keen on walking to work every day…

Poverty causing disability

“There is a strong link between povety and Special Educational Needs (SEND). Children from low income families are more likely than their peers to be born with inherited SEND, are more likely to develop some form of SEND in childhood and less likely to move out of SEND categories whilst at school” – Joseph Rowntree Foundation

If you’re living in poverty, you may find yourself at risk of disability for a number of reasons.


For example, a damp home, an unsafe step etc increase your risk of breathing difficulties or a bad back.  There’s also the stress which a poor living environment can cause.  You may find that your area has higher pollution rates or higher crime rates, both of which have potential to cause disability.

Learning  and development

If a parent is working all the hours they can then they have less time to support their child’s development and learning and possibly less time to notice any developmental delay and hence are less likely to seek advice or support.  Or be able to seek advice and support if they want to because such professionals work 9-5 when a parent is also likely to be working…


Money is obviously a big part of this discussion.  Lack of money brings with it stress, inability to provide everything your child needs, buying cheaper and less nutritious food etc…
You may also end up working multiple jobs which is going to put it’s own pressure on your body and increase your risk of pain, RSI etc.
If you can’t afford to go off sick then your bad back gets worse and worse.  If you can’t get time off work to see a dr, your illness gets worse and becomes something more disabling.
Depending on where in the world you live, you may not be able to afford to seek healthcare at all.


Reduced access to preventative healthcare and reduced access to medication etc increase risk of preventable illness or exacerbate the effects of illness.
If you are unable to access healthcare (whether it’s the cost of healthcare, the cost of getting to your healthcare provider or not being able to take time off work), you are increasing your risk of disability.  If you can’t get your child immunised because of the logistics of doing so, you may inadvertently expose them to risks.
Being born into poverty increases your chance of being born early and being born underweight, both of which are risk factors for disability.


The stress of living in poverty inevitably impacts on mental health and poverty related stress can result in family breakdown which can be a cause of disability or SEND.
Children who grow up in low-income households have poorer mental and physical health, on average, than those who grow up in better-off families.

Intergenerational factors

A parent with a disability has a greater chance of living in poverty which means their child has a greater chance of having a non hereditary disability than their peers.  And so the cycle continues…

I’ve had a brief look at the UK here but the picture is often bleaker in other countries such as America and developing countries.

What I’m reading 

The Books of Pellinor by Alison Croggon

A five book series plus a prequel, these tell the story of a servant girl who discovers there is more to her past than she knew.  It’s hard to explain what this series is about without spoiling things… Needless to say it has a strong female character and is set in a different, magical world.

Angel of Storms series by Trudi Canavan

I’ve just started the second in this series.  I would have leapt into it sooner but the kindle version was still £9.99 for the ebook when I finished the first book.  A bit of impatient waiting and it went down to £4.99 plus an affordable audio version.

This series spans numerous magical worlds and includes a person who was made into a book.  Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vella was transformed into a book to be used as a powerful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been collecting information from everyone who touches her.  Whilst there are numerous interesting human characters, I do think Vella remains my favourite!

Scapegoat by Katharine Quamby

wp-1473151983019.jpgI know I mentioned this before but I’d only just started it then and it definetly deserves a second mention.  It details a brief history of attitudes towards disabled people and then looks at the situation today.  Quamby looks at the ineffective, and rather late to the game, disabilty hate crime legislation as well as detailing horrific cases.  Whilst she inevitabily focuses on the most extreme hate crimes, the sheer volume of cases paints a painful picture of how some people view disability.  It was published in 2011 so remains a fairly current portrayal of the UK today.
Read with something else on the go.  Look after yourself as you read it.  It’s a hardhitting shocking book but one which must be read.

Independent lives by Jenny Morris 


Although this was published in 1993, it has helped me to understand more about the history of independent living and the move away from institutionalisation in the UK.  Unfortunately a lot of the issues around care which are raised in the book are still present today.

In order to create and develop a successful, empowering care system, we must look at the past and reflect on successes and failures.

78 Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack

This, I think, is the only tarot book I’ve read (apart from deck specific guides).  It was orginially published as two books, one looking at the major arcana and one at the minor.  This is obvious when you start on the second section as it does repeat some of the first.  However, Pollack provides detailed information about each card including symbology, mythology and application for readings.  It’s been described as the bible of tarot and is regularly featured on must read tarot book lists.  Compared to other tarot books I’ve flicked through, she seems to go into more depth and provides the reader with a deeper understanding of the symbology which will inevitably deepen their reading of tarot.

Mark Hearld’s Workbook

This is not so much reading as admiring.  I love Hearld’s work and his Workbook provides a great balance of information and imagery.  If you happen to be in York, do check out the Lumber Room at York Art Gallery.  It was curated by Hearld and features some of his work as well as interesting and intriguing objects and artwork.

Magazine wise

Alongside a few books, I always have a magazine on the go.  At the moment I’m enjoying bitch, flow, oh comely, national geographic and mslexia.  What can I say, I have diverse interests!


Retirement and me

I am a huge believer in sharing our stories and in doing so helping other people to see that they are not alone, that there are ways through difficult times…

So with that in mind, here is the story of me and my ill health retirement.  Or at least the story to this point in time.

I have a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.  In a nutshell, this means that I am hypermobile, which causes joint and muscle pain, full and partial dislocation of joints and exhaustion.  It’s a genetic condition so it’s been with me all my life but I was probably about 21 or 22 when it started to interfere with my life.

My hands have always experienced the most amount of pain and this obviously isn’t very helpful if you have a desk job.  I had a fantastic manager who ensured I got the support I needed to continue with my job.  Initially, this was an access to work assessment which resulted in a number of recommendations for ergonomic equipment, a special chair and special pens.  This really reduced the amount of pain that I experienced at work.

As time went by, my pain increased and I think I had five different access to work assessments to ensure that I was getting all the support I could to stay in work.  It was a job and a team that I really loved and I didn’t want that taken from me.  Eventually, things got too much for me and through tears I had to tell my manager that I could no longer work full time.

I reduced my hours to four days a week which helped, initially.  Over time that too became exhausting and I reduced my hours again to three days a week.  The next step was working one of those three days at home.  And then that became too much.

It took a lot to admit to myself that I could no longer work.  I think it might have been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  The next thing I had to do was tell other people.  After much deliberation and procrastination, I emailed my manager.  It was too hard, at that stage, to tell him face to face.

I’ve always worked.  My dad is a farmer and I can’t remember how young I was when I started to help out.  I started work in a newsagent’s the weekend after my 16th birthday.  I worked full time the summer before and during my time at university.  After graduating, I had about a month of unemployment, followed by temping for seven months, covering sick leave for five months and then starting work for what would turn out to be my final employer.

I worked for my final employer to six years in numerous different jobs but with the same supportive manager.  By the time I retired I was managing the team.  I owe a lot to my team and my manager.  They all went well above and beyond to support me to continue to work.  Without them I would have had to have retired much earlier but because of them the decision to retire was so much harder.

Interestingly, whilst a google search for coping with ill health retirement provides limited information about the emotional side, a search for forced retirement is slightly more fruitful.  I was adamant that I would not be forced into retirement.  This was a decision that I wanted to make for myself rather than have somebody else thrust it upon me.

I imagine the emotional turmoil from a forced retirement would be very different to one you choose.  Although I say choose, it was a choice made with very tight constraints around it.  I am aware that if I hadn’t chosen retirement at some stage it would have been forced upon me.

Returning to my story, having told my manager, I then had to approach HR about my options and the process.  I had a lovely conversation with one of the advisers who set out the different ways this could go and answered the questions I had.  Luckily I was in the pension scheme which turns out to have been one of the best decisions in my life.  I was quite worried because I had only been in the scheme for two years, having had not been able to afford the loss of income previously.  She reassured me that this didn’t matter, we would apply for ill health retirement, I would be assessed and depending on my level of ill I would find myself in one of four scenarios:

  1. I would be assessed as fit to work
  2. I would be assessed as unfit to work but likely to return to work within three years
  3. I will be assessed as unfit to work, unlikely to return within three years but likely to return after that
  4. I would be assessed as unfit to work and unlikely to ever return

Depending on how I was assessed would obviously change the outcome financially.  If I was assessed as permanently unable to work, I would get a pension which will be worked out as if I had worked till retirement age.  Obviously this was the desirable, and as far as we were concerned the most appropriate, outcome.

Several months later and I had finally received the outcome.  In my case I had been assessed as unfit to work permanently and my pension was based on my full time earnings (because I had had to reduce my hours because of ill-health).

In so many ways I’m lucky – I’ve got financial security (although a lot of my pension now goes on care), I can choose what I do with my time, I don’t have to worry about restructures and I have lots of interests.  I knew I wouldn’t be short of things to do however, the reality is, when you have perhaps forty years ahead of you with nothing in them, you can get overwhelmed.

I officially retired at the end of May and at the same time, my door openers were finally fitted to my flat, meaning I could leave by myself!  Unfortunately, a lot of things were tying up for the summer at that point… Adult learning courses, groups etc were all taking a break…

So, now it’s September and things are starting up again and I am hopefully constructing myself a routine.  I have hydrotherapy starting, I have signed up for a weekly art course and am looking at other groups and courses.  I am hoping by the end of the year I’ll have a good idea about how much I can do in a week and have some kind of balance in my life.