A person can get used to a lot. A person can tolerate a lot. And when you become passive and used to a certain treatment, well, it can be used against you. Maybe you blame yourself. Maybe you’re trying to push through the pain for a job to keep that job so you put up with everything and anything. Maybe you’re depressed and everything, including fighting for your rights, is just too much effort. But you have to be careful, my friends, for what you learn to tolerate. How you learn to tolerate certain treatment. Because they won’t stop. They will use your tolerance against you and it just gets worse. If we do not stand up for ourselves we get trampled. I know it can be hard and exhausting and draining but we have to fight for our rights every moment of the day. Or we will be used, we will be abused, we will be discarded.
It can be so easy to fall into. You want a job and you need to get through the probation period… so you tolerate the lack of accommodation and the discrimination and the stigma. And they know they can get away with it. They know they can keep pushing and pushing. And if you say nothing, it only hurts you more and more. You are the one that will eat the stress of that environment. You are the one that will suffer. And they will blame You for it.
It is in my nature to be:
- Easy going
- Let things slide
- Not hold a grudge
- Not make a ‘fuss’
- Blame myself rather than others… ALL the time
You can see how this can be abused. And it was abused. A lot.
Example 1: Stigma in the workplace
I love being great at my job. Not mediocre but excel. I love being reliable and dependable. And knowledgable. But I couldn’t be reliable and dependable and on bad days I wasn’t ‘all there’ even if I was There (presenteeism). And I worked in a rather hostile work environment. Where no matter how good anyone was doing that didn’t actually matter… there was always something you needed to do Better.
Being chronically ill though was the greatest sin of all. I got demoted, promoted, demoted. After 13 years I was the lowest-paid worker, including those just hired for that position. I was threatened with being laid off first if lay off were to happen because I was ill and therefore not worth as much as an employee. I was given ultimatums of basically get better… or you will be punished with such and such. It was hell for me. The stress made things much worse than they should have been and it made me sicker. And it made my mental health so much worse until suicidal ideation turned into a suicide attempt (after an ultimatum I knew I couldn’t DO).
And this made me:
- Blame myself
- Lose confidence in myself
- And trashed my self-worth
- Hate myself
What I should have done:
- Gone over her head to the area manager
- Called HR
- Called the Ombudsman
- Called the labour board about the illegal things she had done
- Sued if nothing worked
Either way, my lack of fighting back established that she could then treat me that way and continue to treat me that way because I didn’t tell her it was wrong. I tolerated it and tolerated it and she used my illness against me at every moment. It was a hard, difficult, dark time for me. And now I know what an unacceptable work environment is. And what I will never, ever tolerate again.
I was silent about it. I tolerated it. And she used my illness as a weapon against me. And, man, that was effective in destroying my self-worth which took so many years to repair. The only blessing in that job was that I worked with a bunch of great people and they helped me get through the worst of it alive. I don’t think they even knew half the stuff she said to me. The illegal things for sure. But they knew I suffered pain all the time and it was difficult for me, and there support meant everything while I floundered to just survive in that environment. Most of all I regret my silence the most.
Example 2: Long-term disability
Insurance doesn’t want to pay you no matter how long you have paid in or how disabled you are. It isn’t their job to Pay. It is their job to make money. So pay as little as possible to as few people as possible. So they make it as difficult as humanly possible. They ask for more information and more information. The decline so you have to appeal. Sometimes more than once. And then When you get on, if you do, after 2 years they decide whether you can work Any job opposed to Your job… and on any whimsical reason they can boot you off and you have to appeal again.
In other words, if you are in pain, severely depressed, passive, and majorly broke… you just give in. Because it seems… easier. And that is what I did. I just went back to work because it seemed like I had to. Which was a very bad choice because I was not as they said ‘significantly improved‘… I was severely depressed, suicidal, and still had no pain management. Which led to my second suicide attempt. But what did they care? Of course not. Their job is to get you Off and back to work. They don’t care if you’re ready or capable.
But I let them treat me that way. I didn’t fight. I didn’t get rightfully angry. I didn’t force my point of view and shove it down their throats with as much paperwork I could muster until they choked on it. I gave in. Because I was mentally and emotionally exhausted… and the system is designed to break you down like that. You’re tired. You’re sick. They know that. They know we do not have as much energy to fight. And they use it against us. Oh, we lost your paperwork. Oh, we need another form. Oh, we need more evidence. Oh, you need to see this consultant and this person to prove such and such. Oh, now you need to prove you can’t work any conceivable job in existence. It is hard. So hard. And we get so very tired of it all. And broke and then guilty we are broke and it is our fault… and that pressure gets to us.
It was easier this go around because Short term screwed around with me for a year and demanded SO much evidence that by the time long term came around I had the great Canadian Novel’s worth of evidence compiled already. And I was so sick that I had to fight as hard as humanly possible because it was physically impossible for me to function. Not maybe I’ll push through the pain and then try and kill myself like before. It was I absolutely cannot function or drive or do any sort of actual work that requires any effort for any short amount of time or any consistency or reliability or anything. I wasn’t capable at all. I had no choice But to fight. And it was then I realized I should have fought hard for myself all along. Because my doctor said I could not work. All my psychologists said I could not work. My family said I could not work. I knew I could not work but I tried to force myself to… and that was stupid.
You can’t be silent. You have to fight. And keep fighting. And keep fighting. And throw so much evidence at them they drown in it. And if they send a consultant you tell them the honest Blunt True Deep Dark Truth… do Not downplay your illness like you might for everyone else. Because they just need some excuse. Any excuse. A fabricated excuse. To boot you off of long-term and you have to start all over again.
Here is the thing
We get so used to being stoic. To downplaying our pain. To smile through it for our loved ones. To not mentioning the ‘normal’ pain and only mentioning the Epid Mind-Blowing Pain. That we do it with everyone. Employers. Coworkers. Medical professionals. And that silence kills us in certain situations. What we tolerate from those people, the stigma, the discrimination, just lets them do more and worse and our silence just lets them.
We need a lot of fight in us for our rights to be heard, listened to, and understood. We have to fight for them. Fight for medical treatment. Fight for accommodation at work and fight against discrimination at work. Fight insurance companies for our leaves of absence (even if it is short term) and fight harder if we become disabled because no one wants to pay for That.
I am fine with us hiding and smiling for our friends and family. Be stoic. It is fine. We don’t want to show the pain all the time. But when it comes to other situations I want us to be as blunt as fuck. About the darkest elements of what chronic illness and chronic pain have done to us and are doing to us. How our functionality is affected. Our lives are impacted. Everything. Blunt as fuck. If you are not… they will use that against you. They will silence you. Disregard you. Discard you.
I fought so hard just to get on short term. It was insane. But I had the fight in me. I had no tolerance left in me. I didn’t want to play their games. I couldn’t function and I knew it and everyone knew it. There was nothing to do about it but fight my ass off. The problem being I shouldn’t have been working As is let alone with my new vertigo issue that made it literally impossible for anyone to think it even possible. And I still had to prove Vertigo was a Problem. Yeah. That is how they wear you down. But I wouldn’t stop because I couldn’t stop.
So never, ever stop fighting. Never, ever put up with stigma and discrimination. Never tolerate an Inch of it or they take a Mile. And if like me you have Major Depressive Disorder and you struggle with motivation and just even trying is so difficult… you get a family member to help you fight in your appointments, for your insurance, anywhere and everywhere until you can fight for yourself… because they will crush you because they can.
We have to understand they do not have our best interests in mind. They have money and number in mind. We are not the most reliable, dependable, employees and they don’t want to accommodate us… easier to push us out if they can. I’ve seen it. People being pushed out. People being mocked for mental illness. It is horrific. And insurance companies see us as a cost, not a person and they will try their hardest to get us back to work regardless of our mental state or physical state (and I had a suicide attempt because of that… how is that Right? Or Acceptable?) They do not see us as people at all. We have to force our rights on them. I don’t know. I am a happy mellow person. But sometimes we have to get angry and we have to fight like hell.
Short term disability rant (the beginning of my year-long fight)
Mental illness: stigma thoughts
Medical stigma and discrimination