Access to work helps Paul
When Paul Mitchell’s seizures forced him to give up his job as a civil servant, he reinvented himself as a comedy writer – with a little help from Access to Work. Here, he explains how he turned his life around.
At about 3am I was gently prodded and roused from a deep, fit induced, slumber by my wife Sarah. My name was repeated and repeated until I finally showed some signs of recognition. Coming out of that haze, I recognised Sarah but I didn’t know where from!
All the blurs eventually sorted themselves out and there, in the background, stood two figures dressed in green overalls. After a while I realised that these people were employees of the ambulance service and were attending me although, at this point, I didn’t know why. So began my post–convulsion life.
For the next two years progress was very slow and every conscious moment required a tremendous effort.
Up until a year ago, the medical establishment ignored me. After the fit I was seen by my GP who slightly increased the dosage of my tablets, but that is all. However, a year ago I got a new GP and I asked to see a specialist to make sure everything was alright. The new doctor asked when I was last seen by a specialist and I said 30 years ago. She booked me an appointment immediately.
The consultation with the specialist went well. The EEG confirmed that I was epileptic. The blood test confirmed that my tablets were doing their job and the MRI said that I had the brain of a 70 year old even though I was only 48.
My job as a full time civil servant required a mental dexterity that I no longer possessed. I went from being a full-time adviser to a part-time adviser and while this worked for a short time I eventually had to leave the civil service completely.
The next three years were hell on earth. I was unemployed and received Jobseekers Allowance for a short time but, when that ran out I was without my own money.
Disability Living Allowance
Government tinkering with the benefits system also meant that I didn’t qualify for any Invalidity Benefit or Disability Living Allowance. Without my wife working my situation would be very different. We are not well off by any means but it does mean that we can live. . . just. My low self – confidence was hardly an asset when seeking work. Where was the help that disabled people should get? It was obvious that nobody was going to employ me and so I decided to change the habit of a lifetime and turn a negative thing into something positive.
Access to Work
I had always regretted taking a degree in English, because I had never had the opportunity to use it. This was the perfect chance to use my education to write for a living. There was only one problem, my memory.
One day, while browsing the internet, I came across Access to Work. This government scheme finances disabled people who are at a disadvantage and assists them in purchasing the help they need to work.
I applied for Access to Work and was accepted. I was assessed as needing a dictaphone, an electronic organiser, a laptop computer, two pieces of software and some training. I bought all of these things and the money was refunded to me.
Gradually my self-confidence has grown, so that I am less dependent upon my wife. I have built up my coping mechanisms and have the tools to cope with any deficiencies in my memory.
My days are now spent writing comedy articles, comedy scripts and comedy on the internet. My life is spent in observing and recording the funny side of everything.
I couldn’t have done this without the tools provided by Access to Work.