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.

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‘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…

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!

MS and the life I had

One day I would like to write about happy things

Rainbows and unicorns aren’t in my forecast though

I was called into a meeting by my employer to discuss my attendance and how it may be impacting the program

I felt a sense of dread

Who doesn’t when they get emails like those?

The meeting included my supervisor, her supervisor and HR who joined via phone bc she was sick. The irony wasn’t lost on me

Pleasantries exchanged

I felt the mood shift

HR stated that the school board had expressed concern over the attendance and how it is negatively impacting the class

I literally felt my haunches go up

Do I take days off? Yes

Have I noticed an impact on my youth?

No

And to be perfectly honest

If I had noticed such an impact

I’d of done something

Bc despite how HR made me feel by repetitively asking me to be honest with them

I have been

To a fault

I notify my supervisor and coworkers immediately

I tell them the truth

I don’t feel well

I’m tired

I have a sinus infection

Blah blah

HR says they want to support me

But can’t if I’m not being honest

I felt my head shake in puzzlement

She spoke words like systemic and pattern of absences

And I felt like I was on trial for something far greater

She asked me to commit to five days a week of attendance

I may have guffawed

I have MS I thought to myself

I recently underwent treatment to kill off my immune system

How the fuck do you expect me to commit to that?

Can anyone? Even a non-chronically ill person?

She said then I should speak to my family doctor to discuss my capabilities

Of which I’ve never been uncertain of

She made me uncertain

She said to get a letter

Absolving me of my absenteeism or giving me a stamp of healthy approval

I laughed when she said a month was too long to get an appointment with my doctor

She doubles as HR and a medical receptionist

In my bewildered state

I asked how the program had been negatively impacted

She said the relationship building was affected

I felt cold

I’m not certain of much

But my ability to engage the youth in the program

I’ve got that

The call with HR ended

I was left in a room with supervisor and management

I felt so fucking small

They asked if I had questions

I asked about the relationship building

They said it wasn’t about my relationship with the kids

But rather the one between the school board and agency

You know

The shit I don’t care about

I nodded absently

They said it wasn’t personal

They said my ability to engage with clients was top notch bar none

They said there is no question about how good I am with the youth

I hate this part

I cried

Stupidly

Embarrassingly

It hurt from the inside

And I couldn’t stop it

I cried because I felt like I was being held responsible

For something that I have no control over

I didn’t want to have MS

I didn’t want to be anxious and depressed

And generally broken

I cried because I would never want to do anything that would leave any negative impact on any of the youth I work with

Indirectly or not

On a side note

I’ve never had to take a break and stop writing once I’ve begun a post

It’s usually like a stream of consciousness

Flowing from brain to fingers

I’ve stopped once already in writing this last blog

Because the usually cathartic release I get from writing

Hasn’t been found in writing this time

It feels too raw

I need some time