The Terminated

I Won’t Be Back.

When I started my ECT treatments, I was prepared to document my journey.  I wanted others to see that it wasn’t barbaric, so that they too could have a chance at putting a lid on their depression, at least for a little while.  I thought I would get a dozen treatments or so, and I’d be done.  All better.  That didn’t quite happen.  Oh, I am better, much better than I was, but my new normal is nothing like what I expected it to be.  ECT wasn’t bad or good but a little of both, and the aftereffects are even more mixed.

First of all, those 12 treatments turned into 3 months of constant travel to a city six hours away, at times all the way there and back in two days, other times with a week in a hotel room.  They gave us a hospital rate, but that hotel wasn’t free.  We never unpacked our suitcases.  We hardly bought groceries.  Our kids got really sick of staying with grandparents.  My husband and I both missed work, since I had to have someone with me for the treatments. I was long past any sick or vacation leave, so I got no pay.  He got pay, but I worried they would fire him.

They didn’t.  Thank goodness.  No, they fired me.  Or as the university likes to call it, they “terminated” me.

They aren’t specific with that terminology.  Anyone who leaves the university is “terminated.”  After student workers quit, my coworker would say “Madison has been terrrrrrminated.” in a threatening voice.  And these were people who chose to leave.  In fact, I do not recall in my seven years at that workplace anyone ever being fired no matter the gross misconduct.  Just me.

Technically I was terrrrminated for, as the letter called it, “excessive absenteeism.”  Oh, yeah, it was a letter.  No in person meeting.  No phone call.  No warning.  After getting two degrees from that place.  After working two different jobs at that place.  After struggling just to get up in the morning for so many years, after keeping a job when anyone sane would have quit to rest, after using all my energy for said job with hardly any left to spare, after spending so much time worrying about that job that I couldn’t let myself heal, I opened my mailbox to find a letter.

I’ll simplify what it said.  “Hello Alice. I realize that after seven years of a family work atmosphere with people you called “friends”, you thought maybe you might survive your latest bout of illness.  But this time you went over your FMLA, that stuff that the government amazingly still offers that lets you have twelve weeks of unpaid time off for pesky things like illness.  It’s almost like we were just waiting for you to go over that block of time, and throwing down the hatchet right when you did it.  Sure we could have warned you, or heck, called you even ONCE while you were out on leave to check on you, but that would acknowledge you had a real illness, not to mention take time from our schedules. Nevermind that your brain has been shocked into seizure over twenty times, you really shouldn’t have abandoned your job.  But you did, so give us your keys and your ID card, and clean out your desk.”

I have been through many emotions after losing my job on August 24, well technically the 22nd, as it took two days for the letter to arrive.  (For two days I was fired, and didn’t even know it!)  Yet the first thing I felt when I read that I no longer worked at that place was relief.  For the first time in a very long time I could breathe.  When you have a chronic illness, it becomes another job.  Add in parent, spouse, maid, cook, etc – each one a job in itself.  No one can do that much, so you start dropping jobs.  I stopped cooking.  I stopped cleaning.  Self-care also fell by the wayside.  Depression isn’t big on letting you shower anyway, and add in a severe time crunch, and you can forget it.  And this was all before I decided to try ECT as a last ditch effort to help me cope with a disease that has plagued me sense I was a teenager.

Yet the relief was short-lived as I now face a very uncertain financial future.  I had wanted to quit, but I felt like I could not.  We needed the money, especially after months of no pay AND high medical bills that had gathered up on my kitchen counter.  We needed the very good insurance to pay for all my medical woes.  I spend thousands each year just for daily medications I get from the pharmacy.  My mother pointed out that this might be a reason for them wanting me out of there.  Insurance companies aren’t happy when they actually have to pay back some of those premiums.

I feel guilt because of the financial losses my family has taken due to my illness.  It isn’t my fault, but that really doesn’t make me feel better.  I am far from the only one.  It’s all over this supposedly great country: families who work hard but live on the brink, one medical disaster away from total bankruptcy.  I know so many this has affected.  A hairdresser and family friend who was denied insurance because getting Colon Cancer was a “pre-existing condition”.  She’d already had Breast Cancer, no fairsies getting it again. I have a friend deep in debt for trying to keep her chronically ill kids alive.  I have a friend with Fibromyalgia and Depression.  She had to quit her job because constant debilitating pain forced her to do so, pain many doctors don’t even believe is real.  A blogger friend just sold her house to help with her massive medical debt.  As she said, all because she got sick.

My brother has struggled with Type 1 Diabetes and Bi-Polar disorder since he was a child.  My parents have struggled with being his caretakers.  Bipolar disorder and Diabetes are a double whammy.  Not wanting to take care of yourself is one thing when you don’t need insulin and a healthy diet to survive.  He has already lost part of a toe.  Yet my parents spend money they worked hard for all their lives to help him survive, because he cannot stay in a job.

I was supposed to be the Golden Child.  In spite of 3 degrees, I have failed.  Over and over.  I was forced to resign from one job, and forced to quit another due to intolerable working conditions.  And these were just my “professional” jobs.  Those jobs, and the latest one, were all at libraries.  Maybe I shouldn’t like to read so much.

I am lucky, because I have had the help and support of so many people.  There is no safety net here for most people. They stop or ignore needed medical treatment every day because they can’t afford it.  They can’t afford tests that could not only make their treatment less expensive in the long run, but save their lives.  It’s all about money here.  God forbid anyone raise taxes.

Let them eat cake.

We need a change.  Maybe we don’t have the power to stop these diseases ourselves, but we have power to lessen willful ignorance.  We have the power to decrease selfishness and cruelty.  Do not doubt your ability to help someone feel better with a simple word, a kindness, an embrace, or a novel length blog post.

And don’t forget to vote.  Vote for those who would choose kindness and mercy over greed.  Who would help people who are too sick to help themselves.  Who would pass laws enforcing humanity in workplaces, in insurance companies, in hospitals.  Who would let sick people think only of getting well.  If we don’t find those candidates, we can create them.  Surely the “greatest nation” could do something as simple as take care of its own.

~ Alice

 

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21 responses

  1. I’ve had the honor and privilege of being your friend for almost 5 years now. I’ve watched you go through this journey and many times felt like I was reliving my own. No matter what, I’m here for you. You’re an inspiration to me, Wonder Twin. Sincerely, what would I do without you? ❤️

    1. You helped me get through many, many days at that job and you still help me now. What would I do without you?

      1. What would we do without each other???
        Internet hug! 🤗

  2. Good post. Cowardly way to fire you.

  3. Fuck. That just straight up sucks. I’m so sorry.

    1. Thanks. Once we get back on the slightly more secure end financially, I think it will work out for the best. But it still shouldn’t happen.

  4. So sorry to hear about your job. I imagine losing that health coverage is more scary than any other part of it. I cringe when I think of the new administration wanting to roll back advances we’ve made in health coverage, even though we still fall short of where we need to be. What we have isn’t perfect, but it’s a start, a start that we can build on and improve. People shouldn’t have to drain their savings or go bankrupt to pay medical bills for themselves or their family.

    Getting adequate coverage for everyone in the country means everyone needs insurance, even those young healthy people who “never go to the doctor.” It’s only by them buying coverage can we afford to insure everyone. It’s like immunizations: everybody needs to get them, not only because it protects them should they ever get exposed (like those healthy people who might suddenly be diagnosed with cancer or diabetes and then need that insurance after all), but also because it protects those who are more vulnerable to disease and could die if others around them aren’t immunized. Not a perfect analogy, but I think you catch my drift.

    I hope things smooth out for you and you’re able to get new coverage. Thankfully the ACA is still in place and people can’t be denied coverage due to preexisting conditions.

    1. Oh, I think that was a very good analogy. I can’t understand how so many people can be so self-centered and cold. There is a thing called karma, and while I would not wish these diseases on anyone, people should realize that no one is invulnerable. If you can’t just help people because you are a decent person, do it because you may one day need it yourself.

      I can be cheap – it helps when you don’t have much money. Yet we are always going to pay taxes for something. Why not make it something that helps our fellow man?

  5. Nothing like the personal touch of higher education.

    1. Lol, so true! They are controlled by state government, and like any government entity, they really let you feel the love.

  6. Beautifully written and so very true but sad. Hopefully you have COBRA to help for a while? I too have a chronic illness that is very debilitating (but of course it is one people can’t see), and I also suffer from depression and anxiety (they go hand in hand, those fucking illnesses). Without insurance, we would be up the proverbial river. Still, three surgeries and multiple medications certainly fuck up the finances. I feel for you and agree. We need to vote vote vote and get medical relief for everyone who needs it. And stop the damn stigma while we’re at it. Keep on writing. It can be a lifesaver. Literally. And your words make us feel less alone.

    1. I’m so glad my post helped. Thank you for your concern, but I was able to get covered by my husband’s insurance through his work. It will take more out of his salary, but nothing like what so many people have to pay. These illnesses do go hand in hand. I have asthma, which is aggravated by my anxiety, and also creates anxiety. I got frequent respiratory infections while working along with the depression. It’s a catch-22 – you need insurance to pay for your illness, but the job you work to get the insurance contributes to that illness.

      I wish you well with your illnesses – those who are sick must work twice as hard as anyone else. As I’ve learned, you also must be your own advocate and fight for your rights. And yes – this stigma needs to end. It’s still there, but bit by tiny bit, I can see it getting better in certain circles, and that’s in part because people are becoming better informed. We all have worth and value and a part to play in this world. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  7. Oh Alice. I’m so sorry for so many things you have been put through. I know I have seemed like an absent friend. I’m not sure if you know I have my own complicated history with ECT, but that’s why I’ve been silent. I have read along and rooted and prayed for you.

    What they have done to you is so wrong, and everything you say is so right. This country is insanely effed up in its priorities. The first time I heard of someone being “terminated” for medical reasons (my aunt, after she was rear-ended and had terrible back problems, from a job she’d had probably 15 years or more) I thought it couldn’t possibly be legal. I guess I still believed then that decency existed and people had rights. I know there is still decency in some.

    I don’t know how to say the things I want to, only that you are dear to me and such an amazing person, and that ffs, something good better come your way soon. It’s going to get better.

    Love to you.

    1. Thank you Ruby, so glad to hear from you. I know you have been through so much trying to treat your depression. What works for one for another might not work – or make things worse. I’ve certainly experienced that. So far it seems like the ECT has worked for me, but it certainly was not without great cost in many ways.

      Still I think that things are going to get better. I have applied for benefits, and people have helped us out. One thing the current administration has shown us is that while there are certainly horrible people out there, there is still some decency. Some people will stand up, like they did to narrowly stop the repeal of the ACA. It is giving me a little more faith. I truly appreciate your prayers and offer you mine. I hope you are doing, as I like to say with some friends, “okayish”.

  8. You make me want to write again. I’m not sure my brain is up to it, but damn it, we have got to keep speaking this truth. I’m so sorry you were terrrrminated. I hope for good things in the future for you. I don’t how, but I have to believe good is somewhere out there.

    1. I’m glad I gave you some inspiration. I was inspired by other bloggers to write this post. It’s tough to write when your brain feels so messed up, but it’s such a nice feeling when you get something out there. Blogging is one of the things that has shown me that there are good people out there after all. I wish you the best as well.

  9. What a bunch of intolerant and childish wankers!

    Things here in the UK sadly seem to be going the same way, with the National Health Service now being run by Virgin Health Care in a number of places.

    You’re in my prayers, my love, and those prayers also include hope that you’ll get an amazing job with an amazing employer who understands how crappy the brain can be and also pays you lots.

    1. I cracked up when I saw “intolerant and childish wankers” – so true! That is sad that the UK is following some of America’s worst trends. I am just thankful that the current administration wasn’t able to appeal the ACA. There were just enough decent humans to not completely take away insurance from so many people.

      Thanks for the good wishes. For now, as long as I can make it, I’m working on healing myself and taking care of a lot of unfinished business.

      1. That sounds like a very good plan to me! Xxxxx

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