Fighting to live

Written in 2002

In March this year my eight year long fight for compensation finally came to an end, but it didn't turn out like we all expected it to. Over the years my lawyer had built up my hopes and convinced me that the settlement would be the answer to everything; I was going to get enough money to move away from here, start my life over and live comfortably. The rest of my life really did depend on that settlement. Everything was going to be fine of course, my lawyer kept mentioning figures of around quarter of a million; he even said he felt "out of his depth due to the amount of money we're dealing with". That's why he employed a barrister, because of the amount of money we were dealing with.

When the award was finally decided, I felt like my world had ended. The phone call left me in a state of physical and emotional shock I couldn't move, just sat, staring into space with tears rolling down my face. The quarter of a million my lawyer had convinced me I'd get was in reality, just £30,000. It wasn't enough to pay off the debts I'd been planning to clear (mortgage, loan, credit cards), let alone move away from here. My lawyer wanted to appeal, he was sure we could get more. He didn't see how tired I was; there was no more fight in me. I had no choice anyway, he didn't understand. The mortgage was six months in arrears, loan repayments weren't much different; I had to accept the settlement or we were going to lose everything. There was no choice.

What do you do when the thing you've been pinning the rest of your life on fails to materialise? It took months for me to properly absorb the news. I'd had the rest of my life mapped out, but someone put a match to it. What could I do? On the surface I carried on as normal. I knew I'd survive, I always do: But I didn't want to survive, I wanted to live. No one ever saw the pain and turmoil I was hiding, no one ever does; I don't let them.

Weeks became months, my despair grew deeper and deeper. Then one day I thought of my mother and how sad her life is; she simply exists, she doesn't live - she's 52 and what has she achieved? Nothing! She relies on other people to do everything for her, relies on the state to provide food and medical care. All of a sudden I got scared, really scared; what if I end up like her? I'd rather die.

So, I knew what I didn't want - it was a start, but what did I want? I want my son to have everything I never had, I want my life to mean something, I want to be able to take care of myself without relying on other people all the time - I want to LIVE! It took me weeks to summon the courage, but I finally took the plunge and emailed a New Deal advisor asking for someone to send me information. I wasn't ready for an advisor to phone me the next day! I'd decided that I wanted to try and get a job in Tesco - nothing special, but it was close by and I could work evenings. The advisor told me about Permitted Work, I told him my idea about Tesco. I must admit I expected him to say it was a bad idea, but he didn't; he was 100% supportive. The advisor said he'd send out information about Permitted Work and I picked up an application form from Tesco. Once again, I had a plan. I spent hours carefully filling in the application form, prepared a letter to accompany it; just explaining my very obvious lack of employment history. I even got my son's teacher and headmistress to check it over for me - they were both very impressed. My hopes started to raise again, I started feeling positive again; until the letter arrived. The standard rejection letter from head of personnel at Tesco.

My tears returned, followed by anger. It was usually at times like that when the razor blades came out, but instead I jumped on my bike and decided to put the anger and adrenaline to good use - I cycled about eight miles (the circumference of a nearby lake) in 38 minutes. Not bad considering I'd only had the bike for about a month. As I cycled around the lake I did lots of thinking and decided not to give up, so when I got home - adrenaline still pumping - I went into the local shop and picked up an application form. Returned it within twenty minutes, filled in completely. A few days later, I got an interview and the promise of work. The manager said she didn't know which shifts were currently available, but said she wouldd phone me on Tuesday to let me know. The call never came. Two weeks later and after much chasing, I finally received a message that there were no shifts currently available but that they would get in touch when something came up. Another call that never came, they have been advertising vacancies for weeks now but no one contacted me. I could go in and apply again, but I'm not going to - just because I need someone to give me a chance, it does not mean I am willing to be treated like something she stepped in. I would not put up with it from anyone else, so am not taking it from her.

All these things happened while Pam, my mother in law, was in America for a long holiday with my son. When she returned, my husband told her what I'd been doing and she offered to teach me how to use the Sage book keeping software so that I would have some type of skill to offer future employers. Within a couple of weeks I had started working on it, but felt hopeless, it was so much to take in. Nothing made any sense to me. One Friday I was looking through the local paper, for some reason I read the entertainment section (usually I don't look at it). There was a huge spread about Milton Keynes College, they were encouraging people to enrol for their courses. I glanced through it to see if there was a book keeping course and sure enough, there were two on offer. The course fee was £116 - which I knew I didn't have, so I tried to phone and see if there was any type of financial help available, but was too scared. In desperation I phoned Pam, she offered to phone the college for me. A short time later she phoned back to say that she couldn’t get through, the line was constantly engaged, so she was taking her lunch break and coming to pick me up so we could go and talk to them face to face.

When we arrived I was in tears. The emotions were almost too much for me to cope with. Pam explained the situation for me as every time I tried to speak, I started crying again. They were really understanding and helpful, and yes, I did qualify for financial assistance.

My course started in September and is going really well, the exam is on February 7th next year. I'm already enrolled on the level two book keeping course which starts on February 26 th. The current plan is to find work as a book keeper after completing level two, then to enrol on the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) Foundation course and take things from there.

If my settlement hadn't gone so badly, I would never be doing all the things I'm doing now. My life would be the same as it always was, I'd just be living somewhere different. This way I'm making my life really mine. I'm working hard to be my own person, fighting to make myself the person I was always meant to be - fighting to live.


I took my book-keeping and accounts level one exam got a First Class Pass!