Confused and Confounded

I am making one of the biggest changes of my adult-grown-out-of-school life. A new job. It’s a celebration. It’s awesome! It’s incredible! I am bouncing off the walls excited for Monday morning.

Everyone who ever sent a “hang in there” message as I struggled with my old job; who congratulated me on getting my new job; and who rejoiced with me on my last horrible day, you are all amazing and wonderful and I love you.

When I’ve crawled into bed these last few days, I’ve just felt like even thought things are going so well and moving in the right direction for the first time in ages, something’s missing.

Someone.

I really want someone to share this with me.

My friends and family have been incredibly proud and happy for me and we’ve celebrated but what I need now is still missing.

It funny because of the last year I’ve wished for some one by my side many times, mostly to help shoulder the immensity of my illness. Someone to hold my hand when I get bad news or take care of me when I’m sick but this is the first time I can think of that I want someone by my side to share in this overwhelming happiness.

So right now, I’m so happy I’m sad. Truthfully, I’m just lonely. It’s the big things that remind you, you’re by yourself.

State of my Union

Before I jump into the heavy topics I want to give a little life update for you:

Almost three months at the new job and I am still loving every minute. It is an incredible place and I feel like I’ve been there forever. I’m a part of a team there. My opinion and experience count for something and are validated. It is where I need to be and the best career decision I’ve made since I quit grad school. (oh and playing with puppies as needed to relieve stress helps.)

I finally have a car again after almost 5 years without one. FREEDOM!

Healthwise…I continue to struggle a little but the decrease in work stress has minimized my pain levels and Rheum activity but it’s still difficult. I’ve only had 1.5 sick days since I started which is an incredible improvement.My annual bout of SAD is back. Using my UV light, trying to “exercise” a bit, and all the vitamin D can’t save me, so I’m adding another anti-depressant.

Dating is the usual.

I’m trying to be more social and getting out there which is helping.

All in all I can’t really complain, life is good

YAYAYAYAY!

SINCE LAST NIGHT’S SAD “I HATE MY JOB POST” I’VE BEEN CONTACTED BY NOT ONE BUT TWO RECRUITERS!!

Ok I’ll stop screaming now.

I have a phone interview on Friday and a meet and greet on Monday morning before potentially moving on to the employer.

Today at work, wasn’t great, wasn’t not great, it just was. Blah. My boss makes me physically tense up when she’s near me trying to repress the anger but I digress…

I needed this boost.

I really needed it today to help keep the momentum of this weekend with me. I got to relax and have fun and see a lot of people (well a lot by my standards – mmm #wafflebacon) and having some kind of hope that I may not be stuck in this crappy job much longer is going a long way to ensure that.

***

Unrelated to work things. I walked pretty much all around the Toronto Zoo yesterday (except for the Canadian Domain) and I’m only mildly achy in the feet, knees and hips.

I’m holding on to my happy wherever I find it.

“Sunday night” Anxiety

Canada day followed by a vacation day means Wednesday is my Monday and as such I’m falling into my pattern of “Sunday night” anxiety.

Every Sunday, after struggling through my injection side effects, I feel the anxiety creep in. Work in the morning. Nothing is scary these days.

I don’t worry about losing my job, I’m certain my boss is aware I will try to take her and the company down if there was even a hint my job was in danger. That said, I am so unhappy there, so stressed (because of the treatment I received not the workload). I barely stretch myself anymore. I’m putting in what I need to to get by and that’s all I can do. That makes me miserable.

This state of perpetual stress makes me feel unwell. It exacerbates my rheumatoid disease and my depressive symptoms. It’s such an unhealthy environment for me I need to get out. I count the minutes when I’m at work. The seconds sometimes and I bolt at 4 PM on the nose everyday because I do not owe my boss or that company any more of my time than I’m required to work.

Friday I was made to watch a video about psychological standards in the workplace. My boss furiously nodding in agreement with things when all I wanted to say was, “do you see how this was like my situation at all?!?” I truly believe she’s oblivious, which sent my blood pressure through the roof as I listened to the webinar.

An acquaintance was telling me about all the accommodations her company just offered to her and to say I’m envious would be an understatement. After everything I’ve been through this past year wrestling with the stress of work on top of everything else has probably shaved a good five years off my life.

So to help myself I sent out 3 more resumes last week. If I get an interview I know I could make an impression. So keep your fingers crossed.

All the Things

Flippant comments can some times unleash a whole pile of emotions the speaker could never intend. No fault of anyone really but when you’re the one piled under the emotions it’s hard to get perspective.

I would love to travel. Anywhere. Everywhere. It seems like everyone around me is going somewhere. Visiting friends. Visiting family. Sightseeing. You name it.

I admit to envy. A lot of envy.

I have my two weeks of vacation but I’m hesitant to actually use it in case I need time off to interview or if I’m lucky enough to actually quit this year it will be carved out of my last pay which at this point I can ill afford.

Travelling is a luxury some people take for granted. I’d love to book a trip to Paris but on top of the money I don’t have because my health expenses suck up a lot of my formerly disposable income, there’s my health. I worry about taking a trip or being away from my apartment too long. Everything I need in case of a flare is here: drugs, heating pads, ice packs, my bed. Sure most of those things exist anywhere I want to go but there’s more. What if I don’t have the energy to do the things I want to? Or see the places or people I want to see? What if I’m having a flare and people don’t understand? What if I get hurt while I’m away? All of these questions keep me close to home.

Last year The Gay BF and I went to Boston for 4 days and that’s as far as I’ve been since I’ve been diagnosed and I almost didn’t want to go. I was scared to be away from my comfort zone. I was scared I’d just be a drag. (And even though he’ll never admit it I don’t think daily naps where *really* what he wanted to do every day).

So real travel plans are on hold for me right now. I just can’t bring myself to go.

***

I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I interviewed and was offered another job. I had practically moved back home and reinvented my life when I got the call – the company had changed their mind about what they were looking for. Completely unrelated to me or my references.

I actually wailed on my floor that night. Just lost it. I thought I had a way out of my horrible job situation and then pouf! Gone. Back to the shit at my job.

Thankfully, I know now that my interview skills are spot on and that I’m worth at least another 8k than what I’m making now. Tangible proof to all the ranting I’ve been doing about being undervalued isn’t just hot air.

***

I switched to Cimzia almost five weeks ago now. I’ve had the first two loading doses as well as continuting with my 1CC of methotrexate. Except for loss of appetite I’ve had no negative side effects. More importantly, I have energy. Lots of energy. I’ve been social and I’ve been cleaning (scary stuff). Yes, I’ve overdone it a few time and paid for it a little but all in all this is a huge improvement. Pain levels are mild to moderate – made worse by either over doing it or the wacky Southern Ontario weather. Otherwise I have almost pain free days.

Let me repeat this:
ALMOST PAIN FREE DAYS!!!!

***

I’m also not going to kiss and tell but I am dating again. That feels good too 🙂

Selfish* condescending and unapproachable, that’s me!

Those are not words I feel as an HR professional should be written on an evaluation, and yet I’m staring at them on mine.

They were accompanied by a book on emotional intelligence.

I do not lack emotional intelligence. I lack giving a fuck. There is a big difference.

I am half inclined to just be more condescending, sarcastic and unapproachable because at this point getting fired would actually be a wonderful thing. Hell I’d quit if I could!

The gist of my appraisal is this: you’re a great employees but you’re sick and that’s too much for us to deal with so get better. If you get better we’ll let you do all kinds of things. Oh and we won’t accommodate you to let you work from home because a lawyer said not to but it’s your fault people have to pick up your slack.

Oh and apparently my coworkers offered feedback about me – I didn’t realize that was an option. I’m tempted to make lists and post them for everyone to read maybe suggest a few of them grow up and act like adults instead of telling my boss.

I am trying to vent all my hostility and anger so I can walk into work on Monday and not cut anyone. I am trying to vent all of this hurt and ager and frustration because I’ve had a headache for 24 hours not that Tylenol 3s, wine, coffee, water, sleep and a orgasm or two have no been able to shake. I am trying to get this all out because I cannot for the life of me figure out how the fuck I got here.

No one of the coworkers I work closely ever asks how I really am. The one person who does, is like my work mom. She checks in if I’ve missed a day, she actually wants to hear my answer if I say I’m not doing well…none of my immediate coworkers ever ask if I’m well. How I’m really feeling. How am I handling things. Do I need anything? But no, I’m the one who needs to put on a happy face and make everyone else think I’m warm and fuzzy. You know when it takes me 1.5 hours to get out of bed because I’m exhausted and I need to stretch just to be able to waddle to the bathroom in the morning, I’m not the most chipper. I try but I am in pain. I am always running on empty.

Instead of anyone trying to help me, I get piled on for not being able to be “reliable”. The ways in which that actually tears me up….

So I need to go to work on Monday, pretend that I’m happy about this shit that’s been dumped in my lap and smile.

Welcome to HR.

*sorry in my rage-writing earlier, I misquoted – I am “sarcastic, condescending and unapproachable”. I apologize for my earlier mistake. Selfish is implied by the way I put everyone else out.

Dear Boss

First, can we just acknowledge that you’ve fucked up handling my illness and request for accommodation? I mean you know what you’ve done violates the Ontario Human Rights Code and I know what you’ve done violates the Ontario Human Rights Code so let’s just admit it.

I don’t know why you’ve chosen to handle things the way you have but that’s the past. Let’s talk about where we are today.

I don’t trust you. I don’t value what you say and I certainly have no respect for you anymore.

Worse than all of those things I don’t give a shit about my job. A job a used to love. A job that used to challenge me. A job that I used to bust my ass for, trying to prove myself.

You’ve known of my diagnosis for almost as long as I have and your response has been to tell me not to trust my diagnosis or my medical professionals. You even went so far as to suggest I needed a second opinion even though I’ve never suggested any problems with their judgement or treatment. Since then you have provided me with little “pep talks” about not wallowing in my diagnosis. Offering me tidbits about foods that reduce inflammation – if my RA could be cured by eating fruits and veggies I’d be well by now. You mocked me in front of my coworkers when you found out I’d ordered larger pens saying you’d need to “increase your stationery budget” just for me. I sat in your office last summer with an ice pack on my face because I was so overwhelmed by the pain in my TMJ joint. People don’t fake that – at least I don’t.

And finally after months of  taking off random, unpaid sick days (that I couldn’t afford) I finally asked about an accommodation. The ability to work from home one day a week. You ignored me. Put me off. So I followed up again and again until finally 2 months later you decided that having me apply for Short Term Disability was the solution.

Fine.

But that doesn’t help me to do my job? It does allow me to take paid time off to rest and recuperate. Especially since over the last few months I’ve been struggling with fatigue I’ve never known before. Unfortunately, as I’ve taken advantage of my paid sick days you’ve begun to treat me as unreliable. Instead of  being involved in the goings on in our department and the company I’ve been left to handle make busy projects and administrative work. In short I feel undervalued and underutilized.

All of this to say, you’re going to lose me. I’m just waiting for an opportunity to move on.

Me

Isn’t It Ironic…?

My life has reached epic proportions of ironic in the last few weeks.

My Passive Aggressive Coworker is ready to give birth any moment now. Somehow it has fallen to me to plan, arrange and organize her work baby shower. Now I will admit that of late, we’ve been getting along better. She’s been making an effort to be a little more understanding and compassionate since I came out about my RA and I suspect her pregnancy related troubles (carpal tunnel, etc…) are softening her to my difficulties. All that said, we aren’t the best of friends. There is at least one person who should have jumped all over this experience to offer her workplace bestie a nice send off. So instead I get to pretend like I’m the caring coworker and throw all this nonsense together.

The better example of irony, however, is that I act as my company’s Return to Work Coordinator. It’s my job to create accommodation plans to allow people to gradually come back to work once they’re been injured. That is only mildly ironic…the true kick in the ovaries is that I am also responsible for researching, developing, and implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act including creating the company’s policy on accommodating employees.

In case you’re missing it – I asked for a workplace accommodation about a month ago from my boss verbally. No response. So last week I escalated it to an email request:

When we spoke previously about my illness and attendance here at work I mentioned the potential for and accommodation with the option to work from home on occasion as needed. As The Company doesn’t have an official accommodation procedure as of yet, I am hoping this email will be considered as a more formal request and a follow up to our discussion.

Having reviewed my attendance from January 1, 2012 until today I realise that I have taken 15 sick days; most of them unpaid sick days. I realise that this impacts the department tremendously; it has also had significant impact on me financially.

Working from home, only when needed, would benefit both The Company and me.  It would allow me to be more productive and reduce the negative impact to the department and ease the financial impact on me. It would also reduce the amount of time I need trying to “catch up” after I have been away from work leaving me more time to take on other assignments. This is particularly important in the RTW Coordinator aspect of my role – there are things that need responses in a timely fashion and being able to provide a response as needed would help the process.

Through all of the challenges that I’ve had this year, I believe that I have maintained an exemplary standard of work and have always ‘produced’ while continuing to assume new responsibilities. I hope that if you have concerns about my work that you would let me know and I will work to improve them.

I have been making up the hours and time off I have been taking for my appointments and keeping track of it. To date, all my appointments have been made up through coming in early or staying late as needed. I try to schedule my appointments to lose the least amount of time from work but sometimes, because of doctors’ availability, this cannot be helped.

I am currently following all the medical advice that has been offered and working with my group of medical professionals towards remission but there are no guarantees and certainly no guarantees this will happen in a timely fashion.

There have been many days when I have come into work and pushed myself to be here to the detriment of my health because I can’t afford to lose anymore time from work and because, unintentionally, I feel pressured to do so. I do suffer quite a bit in silence. Pushing myself today mean I have less available tomorrow and the next day, which is why often at the end of the week I have virtually no energy left.

I realise that allowing me to work from home presents certain concerns/issues.

You voiced your concern about privacy with regards to having me work from home. I would certainly never take Company documents or files from the office to work on them from home but much of what I do in the course of a day can be done with access to my email and files from the HR and Benefits folders. I realise that this is sensitive information but it also the information I deal with daily.

I am also aware that this will set a precedent as far as accommodations are concerned and I expect that it will be monitored closely and reviewed as needed. I would obviously need to inform you as soon as possible when I will be working from home, the hours I will be working and figure out what happens if I do not work a full day while at home.

While there are quite a few details to work through I would appreciate if we could open the discussion to address this and certainly if you require more medical documentation to support this request I am happy to provide that.

Thank you

Keeping in mind that email was sent over a week ago now. My boss continues to ignore it. Coming by frequently to make chit chat and ramble on about nonsense. Since then she has “promised” we would sit down and discuss it before it’s not as “simple” to accommodate as I think.

She rhymed off budgetary issues and other employees wanting the same “perk”, “just ’cause”. I threw back immediately that this request is not “just ’cause”.

*crickets*

I am trying not to let myself get bitter or frustrated or spiteful but dealing with my boss who seems to be hoping that I “forget” my request or end up in remission before they have to accommodate me, it makes me want to scream. I am the first person to admit that advocating for me is not my strong suit but I’m not sure how much clearer I need to be at this point.

My frustrations are compounded by instances like yesterday at lunch. I wasn’t feeling great with the weather that had rolled in and I really just wanted to sit and have a quite lunch alone. Instead I sat with my boss the PA Coworker and her replacement, the new girl. During lunch our boss expressed her deep concern for the PA Coworker’s pregnancy related carpal tunnel. Now I don’t have a problem with that at all – I express concern to her as well. Her hands and wrists are far more swollen looking than mine. My issue comes in when listening to my boss basically faun over her. The PA Coworker’s doctor has said the condition will most likely fix itself a few weeks after she gives birth. She’s not dying, it’s not a permanent condition and the only thing she’s been advised to do is wear a brace. So I listened to that and said nothing. Then as we were leaving the lunchroom together another employee thanked me for the pen I gave her this morning. I’d meant to order a large grip pen but I’d gotten the wrong one and it was a slim silver pen that was pretty useless. Probably didn’t cost more than ten dollars total. When I relayed the story to everyone my boss quipped that she would have to increase her supply budget because I was special ordering stationary. It was a little, flippant comment but it was upsetting.

The reason I have to order a large grip pen is that when holding a normal one to write – and yes, when I am working on trying to flesh out a policy or reading long documents I like to make handwritten notes – my hand starts to cramp severely in just a few minutes.

I am completely disengaged from work at the moment. I spend the majority of my time finding ways to accommodate other people at work and I can’t get the time of day.

Yes, I absolutely have legal avenues I could pursue if they deny me accommodation but so far there hasn’t been a “no” just a delay in response while my boss thinks about it.

From the Ontario Human Rights Commission website:

“The most appropriate accommodation must be identified and implemented short of undue hardship. Deciding what is and is not an appropriate accommodation is a separate analysis from an undue hardship analysis. An accommodation will be considered appropriate if it will result in equal opportunity to attain the same level of performance or to enjoy the same level of benefits and privileges experienced by others, or if it is proposed or adopted to achieve opportunity and meets the individual’s needs related to the relevant Code ground. The most appropriate accommodation will be the one that most promotes inclusion and full participation, and effectively addresses any systemic issues.”

Nothing I have asked for would come close to meeting the “undue hardship” standard anywhere. And if there is a more appropriate accommodation, I’m more than happy to discuss it but like I’ve said *crickets*

The chances are, I will not pursue any legal action or file a complaint ever because that’s not my style.

Take note, this is *not* how to treat your employees with a disability.

Coming Out To My Coworkers About RA

So I had to have the conversation I’d been avoiding with my boss last week – the one about my attendance. I have 10 sick days this year since January and last week I left work early every day to go to various appointments.

To say I was anxious or afraid of what would happen in that discussion goes without saying. I know that I have been accommodated to an extent without question but I believe at this 8 month point, everyone’s patience with me is wearing thin.

While I have more than made up for the time I take for my appointments the sick days have not gone unnoticed. According to my boss people were starting to talk and question my absences. You see, as much pain as I might be in, as much as I might tweet or blog about my discomfort, if you were sitting beside me at work, you’d never know. The worse my pain, the quieter I become about it. I’m stoic in my suffering – always have been. If things get really bad, I take a few minutes and hide in the bathroom or whatever else I need to do so the people around me don’t see me as weak or vulnerable. I don’t talk about what RA has done to my body or my life; I go to work, try to make nice, survive the day and leave my personal life far away from others. So at the end of my conversation with my boss she suggested I explain to those around me what I’m actually going through to help them understand.

I didn’t want to and I certainly didn’t want to have a face to face – too many people for me to handle at once…so a friend suggested I write them to explain. Here’s the email I sent:

Hello, 

First, I wanted to say thank you to everyone for being patient with me over the last few months. I know my absences mean that others need to pick up my work sometimes to ensure that things are completed. I’m glad that everyone has been supportive and I hope that I haven’t put too much pressure on you.

I know that I haven’t spoken much about what’s been happening with me. I am, in many ways a very private person, and I don’t want people to feel sorry for me or worry too much about me. 

Since January I have been dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). The first PDF I attached probably explains it quicker and better than I ever could. 

Diagnosing RA takes quite a few tests and exams to rule out a bunch of auto-immune diseases that are kind of similar.

Until RA has time to progress it’s generally an invisible disease. I’m sure most days you look at me and I seem just like every other day. In a way it’s good, I haven’t reached a point where any major damage has been done to many of my joints but it also allows people to forget that I am in pain or tired and that I have a serious chronic illness. 

Now that I have my diagnosis I am working with my doctors to try to stabilize the RA. This unfortunately has meant many appointments and follows-up. I am lucky I have a really good GP and Rheumatologist. 

Unfortunately, my RA is aggressive and we haven’t found the right combination of medication to put it into remission. This means I am often in a lot of pain and feel quite exhausted. Over the last few months, when I have been off sick it is because I haven’t been able to physically make it in because of the pain, the stiffness or just being so unbelievably tired (the best way to understand it, is to think about when you have the flu – you just have no energy). On days like that the best thing to do is rest and try to manage the pain. Believe me when I say this, no one wishes more than I do that I was at work everyday. 

When you’ve asked how I was feeling and I said, “fine” or “better” it was because I didn’t want to get into the details and I realise that in some ways because of what’s been happening lately that’s unfair. If you have questions or want to talk about it we can.

These last few months have been especially hard. In some ways the medication is almost as bad as the disease but this past week all my appointments have been for tests and vaccines to make sure I’m ready to start a new drug which will try to suppress my overactive immune system. Unfortunately that also makes me more susceptible to infection. I’m hoping this works. And with any luck I’ll be feeling better soon and I won’t need to see so many doctors and nurses and all other manner or medical professionals and I won’t need to take time off work. 

The second PDF kind of explains what it’s like to have an auto-immune disease. While I don’t have lupus the concept is quite similar. Some days doing the simplest, everyday tasks can be exhausting or impossible – I have to pick and choose.

Thank you again for being understanding and accommodating, hopefully I will be back to “normal” (are any of us normal?) soon. 

-A

Dear Ignorant Co-Workers

I. While discussing the Grammys last week during lunch you offended me in about 10 different ways but your ignorance just makes me pity you. No, Chris Brown shouldn’t have performed and been awarded a Grammy. No, dressing the way Rhianna does not make her slutty or trashy or loose (if I had her body I’d be naked 24/7). And most importantly, those people who like to be hit for pleasure *do not* like the type of abuse that Chris Brown thinks is appropriate (myself included).

II. I realise that you are an older woman from a different generation and getting married and having a baby is something that a woman my age should be doing now but I’m not. You’ve asked me and I’ve told you more than once now I don’t even have a boyfriend so marriage and babies aren’t on my to-do list now. So every time we sit down to lunch together it becomes more and more awkward. You outdid yourself, however, when I told you I don’t even think I want kids and you followed up with, “I was selfish when I was younger too. You’ll feel differently.”

This coupled with the Passive-Aggressive Co-Worker makes for an interesting work situation most days.