Friday, August 21, 2015

Work-Illness Balance

Well, the inevitable finally happened. A confrontation with my boss which completely caught me off guard and went horribly wrong. Last night at 9:30, when she informed me I had to attend a mandatory 9 a.m. meeting on Sunday, it was the first I was hearing about said meeting. In my effort to be a flexible and accommodating employee, I said, "Great, but I'm off Sunday so I'll need to work that day, because I can only work four days a week. So you have to take me off of another one of my shifts." Of course, she wasn't willing to do that, and had no clue why attending a two-hour breakfast meeting would constitute an entire day of work for me. That's when the conversation went off the rails.

I began stammering about having to go the gym and my back seizing up. Next thing I know, I'm looking at my schedule with my boss, and she's pointing out all the other times I'm available to go to the gym that week. Sigh. Thanks, lady, but I'm 39 years old, and don't need help organizing my free time. Of course, by this point I'm flustered and losing my composure. I sound punitive, unflexible, and whiny. Then she asks me if I will work five days a week during our next promotion! Inside, I panic. I get flustered and almost start crying. All my PTSD alarms are sounding, and I break down and tell her I live with chronic illness, and didn't work for four years, and my life is very hard to manage, and I'm doing my best, and I pretty much fly out of there in a rage so huge, I don't really remember leaving the building.

About halfway home I remember my resolve to not react emotionally to life. Oh yeah, that. It takes another hour for me to realize I never received said email informing me about the meeting. A little while later the big daddy hits me; I've never discussed my health problems with my boss. Obviously, during the interview I wasn't trying to play up my deficiencies, I was trying to get hired. So aside from addressing my gap in work history and being absolutely firm that I can only work a maximum of four days and 30 hours a week, I didn't go into it. Now here I sit, expecting her to understand something she doesn't know anything about because I've never explained it to her. 

Another big freakin' sigh. This sucks. I shouldn't have to explain that my schedule problems have far more to do with my sleep issues and my persistent virus waiting in the wings to take over my life if I don't live like an extreme-health psycho. That's nobody's business, really. But if there's one thing being back to work for the last five moths has taught me, fair doesn't exist. If I want this job to work, I have to make it work, and unfortunately that includes arming my manager with enough information to respect my limitations. I'm off today, and will probably spend the majority of it hashing out this conversation in my head, reacting to how unfair and hard this is, trying to come off as a competent, able-bodied, sound-minded individual while still conveying the struggle of my reality. Living, walking, and breathing the absurd paradox this illness forces me to embrace.

Thanks for joining,


  1. Oh man Leah, I'm so sorry for this. How absolutely sucky! I hope things went well for you in this, I HATE confrontation, and as those of us with chronic illness know, confrontation saps the life out of us. Sending all the best your way!

  2. Know the feeling
    Will be praying that you find the words to help them understand our condition and that you don't spend your time dwelling on this and let it push u to a flare

  3. Bless you. You have done an amazing job to be at work for five months. It is so hard not to react emotionally as we pin everything on appearing normal. I would schedule a meeting with your boss and explain your position on your terms. Please don't be hard on yourself and worry. Before I was medically retired at 42 from teaching I used to play over every situation and make it much worse, even catastrophic. Sending you love and big hugs xx

  4. Dear Leah,
    I hope you didn't spend your day off beating yourself up, it's so hard. I admire you so much for being able to work on your feet all day. I couldn't do that at this point, or maybe ever.
    And when a fast ball comes out of left field it's not easy for any one to take it all without a hitch!
    I'm taking a specialized therapy called DBT because I haven't been able to control my emotions in certain situations. So good for you for being able to suck it up, NOT playing the whiner for 5 months and just putting your nose down and working. It necessary for you to have some control in your life, and I'm sure the conversation is coming with your boss. This time you will be calm and prepared and it sucks you have to share that very personal part of your life with her. But as all of know with this disease there is nothing even close to fair in our world.
    I admire you, love your writing so keep on moving in YOUR right direction.