I’m leaving on a jet plane…
I played this song for … this morning before we got up as a tease to remind him that I was headed for Texas for 5 ½ weeks today and he was going to work. The Jewel/Bjork version from Sweet Home Alabama is my favourite – probably very uncoolly, but I loved that movie, possibly the only chick flick I’ve ever actually enjoyed; rewatched; bought on DVD and been able to quote off-by-heart. I like that, in the song, the female voice is singing that she’s the one who messed up; she’s the one who didn’t know if she was ready to settle down; she had to leave and she did not know how long she needed to be away for but she would come back, and when she did, she would be beside him, forever. It’s reassuring to hear a woman’s voice admitting that she needed to do her own thing, that she needs to be in control of her own destination, and her own destiny. I guess breaking up with … was a bit like that for me, I just didn’t know. I needed to be sure and I needed to be on my own for a while to decide. Now I have decided, I’d like not to leave him for so long again. Unless it’s a book tour.
As an aside, I’m just finishing up listening to this book on Audible and it has been inspiring: I do not use that word lightly.
Also, I am on a plane to Chicago en route to Dallas/Fort Worth to see the family. It seems like only yesterday our darling Amercian Dad booked our flights because it was taking me too long to save up the fare. He and my American Mom are total legends – just read back through my blog posts to get an idea of how awesome they are to Scandi and me. Imagine how it feels to have parents on two continents… #spoiled
We’ve just had lunch; Scandi has just finished watching Juno. She cried. She’d never seen it before. I cried the first time I saw it too.
Juno is a good name.
It’s a funny thing to find your life in a upward spiral when your mental health has been dragging it down for so many years. Suddenly you find yourself onboard an Airbus 330 to the States and you haven’t had a panic attack while going through immigration. Sure, I was stressed last week when I had some students entered in exams for the Speech and Drama I’d been teaching them all year, but I got through it. The knot in my stomach went away and they enjoyed it. I achieved something with those children and I learned a huge amount about to move ahead with my arts project in the future. And I didn’t get a migraine out of it. Or have a meltdown.
Which leads me on to the subject of work. I’m still on unpaid sick leave from my permanent job as a secondary school teacher. Did I write about this? Quite possibly. My employer has been a bit shitty of late, in my eyes anyway, and in the opinions of those who love me. I get it – they need clarification but when it comes to mental health and recovery, it’s not quite as simple as “you’re either ready to resume your post on a full time basis or you’re not”. This is not what I had been led to belive in previous meetings but during the second to last meeting with the HR Department, this was pretty much the ultimatum.
“You look great, you seem to me to be doing well”.
Oh, right, thanks. I must be ok if I look good.
“I look fine because I’m desperately trying to keep fit; eat well and sleep in order to keep myself on the straight and narrow. If you’d seen me last Sunday, unable to get out bed; overwhelmed by the faithful old burning paralysis you wouldn’t be saying that.”
“We all have bad days and sick days”, was the response I got.
When I arrived for my next scheduled meeting,it hadn’t been written in the diary so there was nobody there to meet with me.
A medical was arranged for me by email with their independent GP practice. It was for 8.30am on the same Monday that I was due to be at the Rape Crisis Centre at 9.30am. The Rape Crisis Centre is a charity, recently the victim of funding cuts and severly limited on time and resources. It’s not an appointment I can change and if I miss it, it’s not good for me. I need to make that appointment every time.
“I can go to the doctor’s appointment till 9 but then I need to leave to be at the RCC by 9.30am. Is that ok?”
“Could you not push the RCC appointment out as this medical is required?”
[In my head] I don’t think you get how important this is to my recovery. Would you ask a cancer patient to move their chemo session out? Please can you go reschedule that hip replacement so that you can make OUR appointment?
I was enraged, embarrassed. I dind’t like having to tell a complete stranger that I needed ongoing counselling at the Rape Crisis Centre. Why did I have to explain myself?
Reluctantly, and after a few days (I think she works part time and nobody else seems to pick up her emails), I was told to go to an appointment the following morning.
“I need more than 18 hours’ notice”, I told her, “I can’t do tomorrow.”
I provided times that I could, or it would have to wait until I got home from America. I was not dodging the appointment, I have nothing to hide about my state of mind or the fact that there is no way I could be put back into a classroom five days a week at this point and expected not to end up in a psychiatric unit or worse, a morgue. Following this, the HR Manager sent an email “requesting me to rethink my availabilty” as my attendance was compulsory. I was never not going to go, I just need to arrange a time that suited everyone. So, eventually, an appointment was made for this morning at 6.45am. I got up and threw half decent clothes on. The boyfiend dropped me there. I went in and the doctor couldn’t spell my name, or pronounce it. I don’t blame her, nobody can. She looked for me on the system. I wasn’t there. She went off to look again to see if I was in the book for during the week. I wasn’t. I wasn’t in their system at all. No appointment had been made. I emailed work straight away to let them know. The administrator who had asked me to change my RCC apoointment is not in the office until tomorrow: auto reply. The HR manager replied a few hours later. She was sorry and had I confirmed with X the adminstrator? Eh, yes. I had. So now what happens? Do they dismiss me because I can’t attend until the end of June or do I do a conference call? Or do I tell them where to stick their appointment? (Obviously, I won’t, I’m contracted to attend. But I’m not coming home early from America to do so.)
There is a lot of he said/she said in the above, which is tedious, but the overall aim in delivering the detail to you is to question if this is commom behaviour or attitude among companies and organistions in the treatment of employees on sick leave, for physical reasons but also, more relevantly to me, for mental illness.
Or am I a super sensitive nit picker?
A year ago, even 6 months ago, this would all have sent me into a tizzy of hot flashes and cold sweats; enormous guilt and a flood of apologies. But this time, I stood my ground. Even if it was the wrong battle to fight, I’’m glad I said what I felt needed to be pointed out. I want to get back into productive employment: I don’t think anyone could reasonably accuse me of laziness. But I will not be coerced, goaded or bullied back into it at the risk of my mental health. I’ve done that once before, and I ended up right back at square one.
I would love to hear your stories of employers and mental health. I’m sure there are horror stories out but I’m hopeful that there are some progressive and compassionate bosses too.
We are now three hours into a seven and a half hour flight and I think it’s nap time.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg and I bid you a good night (or good day, depending on which time zone you’re reading this from).
PS The necklace is a present from American mom & dad.