Unknown

It’s so ironic how in the click of a ‘send email’ button, your mood can change drastically

I was feeling decent

Dare I say optimistic (I know, my first mistake)

I met with a social worker at the MS clinic yesterday

And after my awesome group on Friday

I was able to put so many of my thoughts into words to express to the social worker

We discussed numerous things including my difficulty attaining acceptance and my work woes

We discussed my worries with applying for LTD

With not having a job

Not having it be a part of my identity

Of what people would think

And most importantly how I would see myself

The social worker told me to listen to my body

I woke up today with a plan

I would email my employer requesting an application for LTD

In the event that at my next doctors appointment, I was ready to make a decision

So I did

And I got an email back quickly

Refusing to provide me with an application until my doctor provide them with those five questions they requested

Painting me as non compliant and difficult

The questions in case you’ve all forgotten are:

‘1. A description of any medical, physical or other restrictions which may result from your medical condition and which may impact on your ability to perform your job duties and attend work on a regular, full-time basis, meaning five days per week. (Please note that we are not asking for any diagnosis or details of your medical condition, other than as they relate to any restrictions it may have on your ability to perform your workplace duties and ability to attend work regularly.);

2. A prognosis from your physician as to the likelihood that your medical condition might improve, such that any current restrictions and/or modifications might not be required in the future, or may be required to a lesser degree;

3. A prognosis from your physician as to the likelihood of your ability to achieve regular, full-time workplace attendance (i.e. five days per week as opposed to your current average of four days per week) in the reasonably foreseeable future;

4. Alternatively, if your physician determines that it is unlikely that you will be able to achieve regular, full-time attendance in the reasonably foreseeable future, whether it is also likely that your attendance will tend to decline in the reasonably foreseeable future; and

5. Any suggested accommodations or recommendations your doctor may have for employer to allow us to better accommodate your situation.’

I wonder how many of you non MSers think these questions are no big deal

Easily answerable

But to someone with MS, these questions are repetitive and lack insight into what a chronic illness is

I jotted down my own answers beside each question:

1. Chronic fatigue, visual impairment and pain, anxiety and depression (both of which are physiological symptoms of MS), chronic pain and headaches and nausea

2. Unknown. Chronic illness is unpredictable and incurable

3. Unknown. Chronic illness is unpredictable and incurable

4. Unknown. Chronic illness is unpredictable and incurable

5. Possibility of patient applying for LTD if you ever send her the fucking form.

I asked again for the application and she refused.

Bah. I’m tired now.

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36 Years Old And Still Not Okay

Sick and tired

Running a low grade fever

Closer to treatment I get, the worse I feel

I feel like I’m nonstop fighting a flu

Tired of feeling this way

But honestly, I can’t even remember a time where I didn’t feel shitty

Where I didn’t feel sick

Or just generally unwell

Mentally or physically

Even pre MS diagnosis

Facebook reminds me of all the statuses I’ve posted over 10 plus years complaining over one sickness or another

Is it possible that I’ve never been really OK?

And I know what the optimists will say:

You gotta be positive

Things will get better

But I have no evidence to prove any of that as plausible

In fact all the evidence I’ve collected throughout my life points to the contrary

The evidence illustrates a life filled with sickness and struggle as a result

Try as hard as I might

And I cannot for the life of me

Think of a time when I felt…I don’t know even just OK

But that can’t be possible right?

No one can always have been and continue to feel like shit, right?

Is anyone’s luck that bad?

So is it my mood then?…

This is like a chicken and egg thing

And I can’t figure out what came first

Did my mental health change one day…

And then my physical body became sick?

And when did this all happen?

Because I’m looking back through the screen shots of my life and I can’t think of a time where I felt…I don’t know…good

But ‘good’ sounds so insignificant

I don’t understand it

And I don’t know how to fix something that I don’t understand

Then I worry that I’ll never understand

So where does that leave me?

Sick

And

Tired

At only 36 years old

And still just fucking lost

In the chaos of moving and health shit, life keeps throwing curveballs my way.

<Below is response to my employers email demanding I complete the medical documentation regardless of being on a leave (that they not ‘properly authorized’ and with treatment approaching which will hopefully change my physical health>

Hello Employer,

Thank you for your email. I am  seeing my doctor on Thursday and will request that he fill out the forms. However I would like to note that I feel that having him complete the forms when I am obviously currently unfit to work is a waste of time. As of right now he has clearly indicated that I am not medically able to work. So any medical documentation done right now will be inconsequential and disregards the purpose of my treatment which is to get better. Regardless of my personal opinion and his professional one, I will ask that he fill out the paperwork again.

As EMPLOYER have been aware of since last year, I have treatment coming up very soon and it has been insensitive and has showed a lack of compassion in demanding that I do this before my treatment has occurred. EMPLOYER has repeatedly reminded me of my contractual obligation while showing no insight to the obvious difficulty that a long time employee of EMPLOYER is undergoing, while attempting to embark on a second round of chemotherapeutic treatment for the sole purpose of improving their physical health. The forms EMPLOYER have demanded ask questions that show no clear understanding of what Multiple Sclerosis is and how it affects its sufferers. 

I had hoped that an agency I loved working for and hoped to continue to work for a long time would have showed me more compassion and empathy instead of making me feel like a burden and drain on their resources. At this time all I can say is I’m disappointed with EMPLOYER, which as far as a contract goes, I understand means nothing. I have learned my worth as a result of having several years of experience in this field and as such have a thicker skin than most, however I hope in the future EMPLOYER can show its employees more understanding and sensitivity than it has shown me, because having a chronic and incurable illness is hard enough. Once again, I will request my doctor complete the forms EMPLOYER is asking for. 

Angela Gagliardi

Worlds Worst Employee

Chronic absenteeism

Those words keep repeating in my head

Sick days

Can’t get out of bed days

Anxious days

On and on

I can’t even use Multiple Sclerosis as an excuse

It started way before that

Somewhere in between my first real job in the industry and getting married

There were so many bad days

I wish I could say I know why it all happened

I didn’t know then and I don’t know now

It’s embarrassing when a supervisor calls you into their office to talk about your frequent absences and not the quality of your work

I can’t remember what I disclosed then

I was naive and thought people in positions of power cared

Especially in a field such as mine

But chronic absenteeism isn’t forgivable even in the best circumstances

I found that out quickly

I had a boss once who understood me

I can’t say enough about her

She didn’t judge me or make me feel less than

But then she was replaced

And when she moved on, she left a note for the next person in charge advising them to overlook the absences because in her words I was ‘worth it’

It got worse after I was diagnosed with MS

The chronic absenteeism, that is

I had a few supervisors that tried to understand

Or maybe they just overlooked it because they too thought I was ‘worth it’

That’s my wish

But I don’t know and can’t speculate on the why

There were some uncomfortable conversations where I hung my head with guilt and embarrassment weeping from my pores and tried to explain my life

In words that didn’t sound like excuses

Even though I’m sure that’s how they sounded

I know they did

Because my own ears heard it that way as well

Here I am now

10 years post finding out struggling with mental illness isn’t a valid reason for missing work

5 years post learning that adding MS to that equation doesn’t add up to stellar employee record

Decades after my father stopped working for similar reasons

Now at 36 years old I’ve built up a track record that includes words like ‘chronic absenteeism’ coupled with sentences like ‘when she’s there, man she’s good’

Where does that leave me?

With an ultimatum of having my doctor evaluate me and my frequent absences and ask for a modified work schedule which would likely lead to my relocation to another program (if possible)

Or quitting/going on long term disability like my father did so many years before me

Tackling the latter; quitting would leave me in a precarious financial situation

Going on long term disability would mean I’m off of work at 36 years old with a brain that doesn’t do well left to its own devices

Trust me, I’ve seen what it did to my father

The alternative is going to my doctor with forms and chronic absenteeism on my tongue

And that would leave me in a state of limbo

Where my fate is left in the hands of an employer that I have lost all faith in

For them to decide if they can accommodate me

Really for them to decide if I’m worth accommodating

Or to find another program to stick me in

Like a dirty little secret

Where the powers that be will dump me onto the unsuspecting supervisor

I wonder what their track record included for them to have gotten stuck with the likes of me;

The Worlds Worst Employee

Somewhat Damaged

Feels like all I ever say is I’m sorry

I should just write them out like lines I used to do in school

And then tape the words over my mouth

Or throw them in the trash

For all the good they’ve ever done for me

I’m exhausted of the emails, the appointments and the alarms I can’t get out of bed for

I’m tired of trying to pretend

To fake it till I make it

To paste a smile on my face

It’s not for me anyway

I’ve never been so skilled at make believe that i could dupe myself

It’s for your comfort

And his

And hers

And it makes me feel worse

I don’t want to care what anyone thinks

I don’t want to see the judgemental looks

I don’t want to hear the accusatory tones or the false sympathies

Yet It’s all my brain can process

Everything has become so fake it smells like my grandmothers plastic couches

Or so bleak it’s like I’m trapped in a dark closet with no light bulb and no way out

I want to shut off my brain

My somewhat damaged brain

This brain of mine

What good has it ever done me?

Filled with anxious thoughts that I couldn’t get rid of

Then so much sadness it was drowning in a sea of it

Then lesions that *poof just appeared one day

And I’m supposed to find a silver lining in this?

Since I’m so skilled at apologizing…

Here goes nothing:

I’m sorry that my lining must be covered by so much shit that I can’t fucking see it

Maybe I misplaced it along the way

For what it’s worth I’m sorry that I lost it

I’m sorry that I lost that silver fucking lining that would make all of this bearable

I’m sorry that I can’t find the silver lining that would give all of this shit a deeper meaning

I’m sorry that I can see everyone else’s silver lining

I’m sorry that maybe some people are just born without the ability to see their silver lining

And I’m so fucking sorry that mine seems to be missing

Or maybe it’s somewhat damaged

And wouldn’t that be a perfect kind of irony?

(An angry playlist to go with an angry mood)

When it rains, it pours. Oh the irony

Letter from HR to my union. My notes in italicized bold type

‘Please note, Angela has since put in a request for a medical leave of absence, beginning May 1, 2018 for one or two months. We will need to address this request separately.

(And yet here it is)

1. What is your specific concern with regards to staffing the program?

This program is designed to provide in classroom support for the students and the staff. That requires that a staff person is available for the entirety of the time in class for the days on which class is scheduled. In other words our employee schedule is depending on the school calendar and timelines. In short, 5 days a week/for any days the school is open. Holiday, vacation and other time off are to be scheduled in accordance with the school calendar, as outlined in our Policies and Procedures.

When an employee is unable to attend class 5 days a week, employer has an on call roster of employees that can fill in on short notice, however, this backup process is intended to manage one off absences, not a continuous number of them.

In Angela’s case, as you will see, her absenteeism has resulted in a significant drain on our on call roster resources.

(There has been no coverage for the bulk of this year so how could their possibly be a drain on resources?)

2. What particularly has the impact been on the program on account of Angela’s absences?

The impact of Angela’s significant absenteeism has been many. On the front end there has been the impact as described above on the drain on our limited on call resources to fill the day in the event of an absence. Secondly, the point of the program is to provide on-site support to the staff at the school and to support and provide monitoring to the students in the program. Absenteeism means that the on-site support to the staff and the student support and monitoring don’t happen, leaving the on-site staff with more to manage, when coverage is not available, putting a strain on school resources as well.

Additionally, as the Counsellor for this program, Angela is expected to develop a rapport and relationship with the students and their family on-site in the school environment. If she is not able to be in class regularly it is difficult to establish, develop and maintain solid relationships. Finally, we have been approached by the school and program supervisors, clearly indicating that her absenteeism has been a strain in their staff and the program and cannot continue.

If employer cannot manage the situation, we could potentially be at risk of losing the program, and the funding, resulting in layoffs.

(I’ve been repeatedly told by my direct supervisor and collaterals that my ability to build rapport and engagement with these youth is superior bar none. That seems very contradictory given the above statements. Furthermore could it be that school admin is upset as a result of being notified about my absences when they have never been in the past?)

4. You’ve remarked on Angela’s level of absence from work over the past two years, yet there has been no acknowledgment from you of the fact that she was on a modified work schedule during most of that time; please substantiate these statements you have made with detailed analysis of absences for the last two years, as we would like to see a comprehensive listing please.

I have appended a summary of Angela’s attendance records for 2016, 2017, and 2018, plus some brief notes on her reduced work for 2015.

You will note that even when on an accommodated reduced hours work schedule, which we acknowledged, Angela has demonstrated that she has not been able to attend work for 5 days a week with any consistency, such as to address the issues that have arisen as a result of the significant amount of time off.

I trust this provides sufficient background and information to understand our position requesting medical as it relates to Angela’s ability to attend work 5 days a week to meet the requirements of the program.

(‘Even while on a accommodated work schedule Angela has demonstrated that she has not been able to attend work for 5 days a week’ . Does anyone else see the pure ridiculousness of this comment? As that would have been the point of needing the accommodation no???)

 

I look forward to your response and the medical that has been requested.’

What an awesome and unusual way to hit me while I’m down. 👍🏼

And I feel super supported not at all stressed, embarrassed and I definitely don’t feel like this is contributing to my extraordinarily shitty health at the moment!! Thanks!

‘Hoping I can clear the way By stepping through my shadow, Coming out the other side. Step into the shadow. Forty-six & 2 are just ahead of me.’

I’ve been feeling like I’m at the brink of a relapse for a month or so and it only seems to be intensifying

Staring down the precipice of the mother of all flare ups

I keep telling myself to just keep going

I’m trying to look ahead

I’m starting Round 2 of Lemtrada on May 7

I just need to get to that date

Without anything major happening

But these last few days have been rough

4 day long weekend and I feel like I’ve just worked a gruelling 60 hour work week and it hasn’t even begun

I wish I could explain the type of tired that MS causes

It’s not just brain tired or the kind of tired you have when you didn’t sleep well the night before

It’s the kind of fatigue where every single part of my body from my hair to my toes is begging to be allowed to just stay in bed

Taking a bath just wipes me out

And don’t even get me started on washing my hair

Along with this crazy stupid tired feeling, every single scratch, sore or bruise on my body is taking ridiculously long periods of time to heal

This is totally a Lemtrada thing

But it kinda puts things in perspective

It reminds me of all the little cells in my body working so hard to replenish themselves while still protecting and fighting for me

Against infection

Against illness

And I’m thinking no fucking kidding I’m so damn tired

My body is using all its energy to build my Lymphocyte count up

It’s not resting

It’s not relaxing

It’s working hard

Like me, I remind myself

It doesn’t matter what other people think

It doesn’t matter that I’m struggling to work four days a week as my employer keeps reminding me

Struggling to take one more step

Struggling to keep fighting against the invisible but very real forces of MS

Struggling to stay relevant in this world I barely seem to inhabit outside of my bedroom

Struggling to just keep being me

Before MS takes that from me too