10 years ago everything was great. I was using my skills as a chartered accountant in a senior level post, I had a long-term partner and things were going well. Then a series of things happened - things that couldn't have been predicted - that really knocked me off course.
My partner became seriously ill, so I effectively became his carer. I then suffered first from a serious stomach problem which required surgery, and then an accident which resulted in an arm injury that took over two years to repair. I then was diagnosed with breast cancer - which meant I had to give up work and claim Employment Support Allowance. Around this time my partner's illness worsened and he was admitted to hospital - the same hospital where I was having radiotherapy.
Because I couldn't drive, I was having to take 2 different buses and walk a fair way to hospital every day. I would visit my partner, then while he was sleeping I would have my own treatment. The journeys home were hard work, then I would need to do all my partner's washing and so on, before starting it all again the next day. I lost a lot of weight at that time - cooking for myself and so on just wasn't a priority.
I was just getting on with it but my sister suggested I speak to CABA about the transport. They were really great, and offered to pay for taxis to and from the hospital. That made a huge difference as cabs were much more reliable than the buses and it was generally less exhausting.
After a time, my partner sadly passed away. I was used to being very independent, but I was grieving and in treatment - it was quite a strain. Then the DWP cancelled the Employment Support Allowance and put me on Job Seekers Allowance instead - meaning the amount I received dropped significantly. It was a difference of over £50 a week, which at the time I really couldn't afford. I contacted CABA again and was allocated an advisor who was really good. It went on for months, but essentially CABA dealt with the DWP and eventually the DWP agreed that they shouldn't have reduced my payments. CABA also arranged for me to have some appointments with a local grief counsellor, which was helpful.
When my own treatment was finished and I started to feel stronger, I was determined to get my life back on an even keel. I decided to start volunteering in a charity shop, just to get used to the routine of work again. I also decided to take some CABA courses in Adaptability, Career Changes and Mindfulness. The courses are free, but CABA were able to arrange funding for the travel to and from London too. They also funded some work with a career coach. Just getting up, wearing work clothes, commuting - all those things really helped with seeing myself as a professional person again. It was quite a confidence-builder.
As I became ready to apply for salaried employment, I recognised that I didn't want the stress of a very senior role. I applied for quite a number of administrative posts but the feedback was always that I was overqualified. I also still had restrictions in terms of transport as the bus service where I live is quite poor.
Then I found a small company who took me on as Office Admin and later promoted me to Office Manager. I was getting lifts to work from a friend initially, then CABA offered to fund the purchase of a modest car. That's made the whole thing so much more manageable - I don't think I could have kept the job without it. The role is not a perfect fit for me, I am not earning a fortune, but I can do it well and the people I work with are lovely. I think they appreciate what I bring to the company. It suits me for now as I am part time, so I can do yoga, see friends and generally look after myself. Also, it's not the sort of thing that I have to worry about when I am at home which is what I need right now.
Things are on the up. My finances are still not as robust as I'd like - for example my fence fell down recently and had to ask CABA for help to fund the repair - but I am getting there. My health is much better, it's good to be part of a nice team and when I am ready I am confident I will move into a more challenging role.
Without CABA, I expect I would have had to sell my home to cope with this period. I am quite resilient in character, I don't like to complain or rely on help from others, but it is good to know CABA is there. They are a very respectful and supportive organisation that are there for times when you need some extra assistance - whatever that may be. It's important not to see it as a hand-out. It's support to help you piece yourself together and become independent again.
How CABA can help
CABA supports the wellbeing of past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and their spouses, partners and children up to the age of 25. For advice, information and support please contact us.