In choosing to take unpaid leave from my part-time role, I had to contemplate the financial toll this would take on my everyday life. I needed to fund my daily coffee intake! So, reinstating the dreaded ‘disability pension’ was necessary. After becoming largely financially independent, accepting this was hard enough but the thought of re-engaging with Centrelink was tougher.

After two weeks of calling the disability helpline numerous times at Centrelink, I realised that I needed to go to my local branch. Calling to just be put on hold and hung up on again and again wasn’t getting me any closer to being back on disability support and was beyond frustrating! Not only was it time-consuming but extremely emotionally taxing. I was perplexed as to why my disability status would change, but, anyway…

Due to an unexpected close family death and my eye still bothering me, I was feeling quite vulnerable at the time that I had to embark on the mission to visit the office. I knew that I needed more support for this errand. So, I organised for my support worker to come with me.

We waited in the queue for 35 minutes and were finally seen by a lady at the desk. After lugging my laptop and paperwork to her booth-like desk I laid out all of my documents and talked through my situation. This took a while. When we were nearing a conclusion, the Centrelink manager came over, stated that my time was up and it was the next person in the queue’s turn. The lady helping me told her manager that she was nearly done with my complicated claim and would only need another 5 minutes. The manager held fast and said it was policy that each person only gets a certain amount of time. She said I would have to go to the back of the queue and wait all over again.

Perplexed, I turned to look helplessly at my support worker.

“Are you serious?” I asked the lady dumbfounded.

“You’ve got to be joking! We’re nearly done!” my support worker exclaimed.

“Sorry love, I’m stuck here. If I could, I would but as you can see, I’m not allowed” the Centrelink lady whispered apologetically.

As annoying as this was, and quite disheartening, I found some solace in the fact that I had my support worker there to assist me in packing up all my documents and carrying my laptop. The kindness of the lady helping me, saying that there was nothing she could do and being incredibly apologetic made me grateful as well.

I waited for another 45 minutes before relaying my whole story again  from the start, to another employee. Thankfully, it was finally sorted out in the time allocated. However, the whole process took around 4 hours.

a bookcase with bookends against it

Quote from my book, Reinventing Emma, "But maintaining important things in my life makes each difficulty much easier to withstand"

Before I started this entire ‘Centrelink’ process, I knew it was going to be a tedious and not a very enjoyable experience, so I made sure to plan my day around it. I did something fun for myself in the morning and made sure that in the afternoon, I had plans to see a friend. Incredible how “top to tailing” my day really helped me withstand this difficult situation. By adopting this approach, I know that there is enjoyment on either side of something difficult I’m likely  to encounter.

Facing difficult times is also definitely so much easier to withstand when I am supported. In this scenario, both my support worker and the Centrelink lady were on my side. In fact, the Centrelink lady advocated for me against her manager in requesting more time to finalise my case. It didn’t work but watching her be on my side was a reminder that sometimes it’s not the person, but the policy that gets in the way of kindness.

My disability support payments were reinstated. It’s not a lot of money, but it funds my coffee intake. And now I’m grateful that I don’t have to visit Centrelink again for a while. Let’s hope not!

Do you “top and tail” your days? What are the things you can do to bookend your more challenging days?