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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Long Term Disability 😒

I’m tired and don’t feel like disguising what I have to say in a poem

For those of you that know it’s been a long week

Few weeks

Months

Entire 2018 really

Maybe more

I don’t know

I heard from my employer

I don’t even feel like cutting and pasting with my smart comments interjected

I’m standing at a precipice in my life

That I never thought I would be wavering on at 36 years old

Yet here I am anyway

Long term disability has been brought into the mix

I’ve been on Sick Benefits since April as my employer doesn’t have short term benefits

I now have to decide what’s the best decision moving forward

The key points are:

-My shitty attendance

-The unpredictability of MS

-The realization that my mental health has probably caused more lapses in employment than anything else

-Will anything change?

I’m under no illusions that having the best of intentions doesn’t equal being employee of the year

Nor does being an above average employee on the days you do show up

I get it

From an employers perspective

I’m more hassle than what I’m with

It’s always the same

Angela is amazing at her job

When she’s here

I’m tired of hearing that

Like I think my soul seriously can’t handle hearing that another time

Or feeling like I need to defend myself

Defend the ‘chronic absenteeism’

So long term disability is an option I’ve never wanted to pursue

For the following reasons:

-I fear falling into a depression being home

-I’m too young to be off of work

-I still want to work

-There are still so many kids I never had the opportunity to work with (even typing that had me ugly crying)

-I will feel embarrassment and shame at being off of work (that was difficult to admit but there it is)

-If I’m not a youth worker, what am I?

Some of the reasons may seem trite to you but it is what it is.

On the other side of the spectrum…

Reality of returning to my current employer:

-I will be under hard scrutiny

-I have no faith in an organization that has none in me

-The way I’ve been treated (though perhaps legal) has been insensitive, ignorant and disrespectful, nothing will change that

-They are holding the power of where they will place me and will continue to send me to the doctor for more medical documents until they get what they want

-As soon as I get a ‘pattern of absenteeism’ they’ll can me

-The stress of this will have a negative impact on me

The reality of finding a new job:

-Things will be great for awhile

-Once the honeymoon period is over and they notice my absences, it will start all over

-This isn’t about being negative this is about accepting my reality, and there will be absences. Lots probably.

-During a 6 month probationary period I can be canned easily

I’m curious as to how other people have come to the decision to stop working. Or hear from anyone who is off of work and their experiences with it. In other words, any feedback would be appreciated.

‘I don’t know who I am or maybe I do know who I am and I just don’t want to be her anymore.’ -G.F

Feeling a little lost

I know

Nothing new

Since stopping the Paxil project

I feel like I have little purpose

I’m still off of work

Which basically means

I’m sitting on my ass doing a whole lot of nothing

My return to my role in the Section program is still unclear

Work has had my medical documentation for over a month but I haven’t heard anything on that end

Not a ‘get well soon’

Or ‘are you still alive?’

All that aside the million dollar question is what will happen if and when I return

I don’t know if they think I’m capable of returning to my position

They have the authority to move me into a different position

That’s weird isn’t it?

I’ve been made aware that it’s within their legal rights

But I no longer have a say where I work

Somewhere along the way

I no longer have control over a huge part of my life (my career)

I don’t know if it’s MS that I owe that to

Or my ongoing struggles with mental illness

Or an amalgamation of all the above

Each taking a little piece of my ability to be a ‘good’ employee

Of course there’s an option to leave this job and look elsewhere

But I would only be kidding myself

If I were to say that it would be different in another job

I mean

At first it would be

I do well in interviews

Maybe they’d hire me

Things would go well

I’d exceed their expectations

And then

The sick time would start accruing

And instead of them looking at me like I’m some slacker

I’ll explain my illnesses

And then

They’ll understand

For months or maybe even a year

But eventually

The rhetoric remains the same

Angela is an excellent worker…when she’s here’

Call me pessimistic

But I think it would make a memorable epitaph on my grave

‘But black roses and Hail Mary’s can’t bring back what’s taken from me’

It’s with a heavy heart that I write this blog tonight

My doctor has assessed me and has determined that I’m not medically fit to work right now

So, I’m taking a leave

I’m not sure for how long

Starting now

Part of me thinks I can never return to a place that made me doubt myself so many times

Questioning my value

Questioning my worth

I don’t care what anyone says

It was personal

It still is

And I can’t pretend that doesn’t hurt

Part of me is terrified at the prospect of starting over

Again

I’ve never had to look for a job carrying the weight of an MS diagnosis on my back

I don’t know how I feel carrying that burden into a new environment

I’m scared to go from one unsupportive employer to another

Let’s be real shall we?

Who wants to hire someone who is likely to take a lot of sick days?

Even if said person is fucking stellar…

On the days they are there

From a production point of view

It just doesn’t make sense

In their terms

I will always be a liability

And not an asset

So where do I go?

Even with certification I don’t have enough letters behind my name to start up a private practice

I’ve never really learned to do anything else

But you know talk to youth

What will I do if I can’t do that?

I’m not so egocentric as to think there won’t be others who are more skilled at engaging youth than I

And I will be replaced

As if I was never even there

Maybe just a cautionary tale for new staff

I’ll just be another adult who abandoned the kids I currently work with

All that work building trust

Gone just like me

They’ll look back on their time with me with bitterness and a reminder to never let someone get too close

And I’ll carry that guilt with me

And let me tell you kid

I fucking get it

I trusted too

I placed faith in my employer

And I’ll look back on this time with bitterness and a reminder to never let anyone see your weaknesses

After all this and I can still relate to those kids so damn much

For them, I’m sorry

I don’t know what’s next

And that is probably why my heart is beating out of my chest and my stomach is warring against itself

What will I do while I’m home?

Will I get worse with nothing to occupy my needy brain?

Will I sit around in my pjs and anxiously pick at the thoughts reverberating in my brain?

It’s okay

And I think to myself over and over again,

Not every story gets a happy ending

Not even when I’m writing it

And especially not when it’s my story

And it’s okay

It’s gonna be okay…

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

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!

What about my right to ask for accommodation when I feel I need it?

Email from employer:

Your email does not address the essential point of my February 22 email to you, which was a request for medical information. I believe my email to you was quite clear in advising you that BLANK requires medical information from your physician, not only so we can determine whether BLANK can take any steps to accommodate your situation, but also because BLANK requires the medical information so that we can understand whether you are going to be capable of regular full-time attendance in the future. Your email states that you have not requested an accommodation. Nevertheless, and even in the absence of a formal request for accommodation from you, BLANK has a duty to accommodate any employee with a disability. We are trying to do so, and that is one of the reasons we are requesting medical information, along with a secondary reason for the medical information, so that we can assess our ability to adequately staff the Section 23 program and meet our program obligations.

Whether you have specifically and formally requested an accommodation from BLANK or not , the fact remains that BLANK is entitled to have medical information from you to justify your pattern of absence from work. Furthermore, while you have not formally requested an accommodation, you have done so indirectly by , in essence, requesting that you be allowed to continue to maintain your full time position, when you have a two year pattern of less than regular full time attendance .

As I mentioned in my February 22, 2018 email to you, we acknowledge that we did receive a medical note from Dr. dated February 8, 2018. However, as I mentioned previously, it appears from His medical note that Dr. may not be aware of the extent and frequency of your absences.

It’s is BLANK view that Dr. has not correctly characterized your current ability for full-time work. Dr. states that, generally, you are capable of full-time work with regular duties. However, your attendance record has not demonstrated this. Instead, over the past two years and two months, you have been capable of only irregular attendance, working an average of four days per week. Full-time work is five days per week and your attendance record demonstrates that you have not been capable of full-time work. As mentioned above, we do understand as advised by you, this is due to your medical condition. Your doctor’s opinion that you are generally capable of full-time work is not consistent with your pattern of absence.

In any event, the medical you provided dated February 8, 2018 does not provide BLANK with sufficient information for us to assess whether you will be capable of regular full time attendance in the future, and what your prognosis might be. Therefore, we request that you return to Dr. for a follow up appointment and specifically obtain the following medical information in written form from Dr. and then provide it to us:

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 BLANK to allow us to better accommodate your situation.

Angela, please note that we require the above information from your physician so that we may assess your workplace restrictions, needs and any requirements for accommodation, as well as our ability to ensure that we meet program needs, which are five days per week.”

You have stated that you are unclear about what BLANK is trying to achieve by highlighting your absences from two years ago.

Let me try to clarify . What we are trying to achieve is to obtain an understanding from your physician about your pattern of absences, and in particular we are trying to determine whether you will be capable of regular full-time attendance in the foreseeable future. That is why we have requested that you provide to your physician a copy of my February 22 email, so that your physician can answer the five questions BLANK has asked, as well as complete the form we have delivered to you. To repeat, BLANK requires this medical information from your doctor so that we can understand any accommodation issues or obligations BLANK may have toward you, AND ALSO so that we may understand whether you will be capable of regular full-time attendance in the foreseeable future. BLANK is entitled to that information and you are contractually obligated to provide it.

We have referred to your absence pattern for the past two years because it is a critical fact in our decision-making processes. Review of your attendance records, has identified that over the past two years, you have been unable to attend work 5 days a week consistently. BLANK has a right to expect that its employees attend work on a full-time basis regularly. Your record demonstrates that you have been unable to do so, and you are therefore not in compliance with your contractual employment obligations. As I mentioned in my last email, however, BLANK does understand that you have a medical condition which is preventing you from regular full-time attendance, as you identified in our meeting in January 2018. We are not faulting you. Nevertheless, BLANK is entitled to know whether this absence pattern is going to continue, or whether it will improve or get worse. We need this medical information to assess our staffing and meet our program needs. Currently, your attendance pattern is negatively impacting AYSP’s ability to meet its program requirements.

After we receive the requested information from your physician, BLANK will review it, and BLANK will then be in a better position to understand the likelihood that you will be capable of regular full-time attendance in the foreseeable future, or not, and we will also be in a better position to assess our staffing needs in order to meet our program requirements.

I requested in my February 22 email, further medical, which you have yet to provide. Please re-attend at your physician as soon as possible and obtain in written form, the medical information we have requested. Please advise me when your next scheduled medical appointment is so that I may have an understanding of when BLANK can expect to receive the requested medical information.

I trust that the above information, together with my email to you of February 22, 2018, have clarified BLANK position, and has explained why we are requesting medical information. We look forward to receiving that medical information as soon as possible.

Finally, we are sorry that you are feeling stressed. However, I can assure you that we have no intention to pressure or discriminate against or harass you. We do not feel it is pressure, discrimination or harassment to require that you provide us with medical information that you have a contractual obligation to provide.

That last part just feels like a slap in the face.