P.A.W. – A Delicate Balance

This post was written by admin on August 20, 2009
Posted Under: Daily Panic Battles,Panic Attack Help for Caregivers/Support People
I am the Boss…You are the Under Ling. Any Questions?

A delicate balance exists when a person that deals with any level of Panic and/or Anxiety Disorder attempts to remain a productive worker.  The vast majority of people that I have encountered in my many years of dealing with my own Panic and/or Anxiety Disorder strive so hard to live fruitful and properous lives.

So what does this mean. A little information and a few tips and you should be just fine. I DO advocate informing your employer of your condition. If they do not understand it, help break it down to easy to understand terms. If you are given the option to voluntarily disclose your Panic and Anxiety ordeal on your initial employment forms, then do so. It helps in the establishment of a history of the disorder. Do not exploit the condition beyond the restrictions that it already imposes. I must stress this, you are attmpting to be a valued and engaged employee, but using the condition as an excuse when you just don’t feel like going to work is not going to help you any.

However, the sad reality is this, unless you are a Hollywood Star, Famous Celebrity or Elected Official, your days as a valued member of a team are numbered unless you can find a truly caring and compassionate employer.  Attempting to be a valued, engaged employee in the real world of big business is a tough task to dance around.  Many professionals and healthcare providers advocate open and honest communication with your employer and explaining the situation and that you are under medical care and are committed to that care because rather than curl up in the corner and wither away, you want to be a part of the workforce.

My real life example as to how hard this is is truly sad. For the last 11 years I have been employed by the same employer.  During my first 2 years, I found things to be extremely hard.  My department manager herself was a Panic Attack Fighter.  She had been on 2 occassions taken out of the workplace by paramedics with the assumption that the worse was happening when in fact she was having a panic attack.  This was several years before I joined the organization.  I was going through a really hard time with my own battle with the demon.  We lived a reasonable 25 minutes from the office.  But my agoraphobia had become so bad, tht it literally took me 6 hours to get home each night.  Sometimes I would opt out to stay at my parents house, which was at most 7 minutes from work.  But it became quite a struggle.

I was called up in front of my supervisor, who now had her own panic attacks under control through medicine for some 6 years now, and was told that my attendance was slipping.  I was not missing days from work, but instead I was asking to leave an hour earlier.  Becasue of the nature of my job, I could easily do it from home or the office.  I asked for a reasonable accomodation in adjusting my work hours to avoid the rush hour.  Instead I was given both a verbal and written reprimand that required me to seek out professional help.  I was put on 6 weeks probation, required to see a psychologist and psychiatrist twice a week during this time and my probation would be reviewed.

Now here I want to point out that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a request for a reasonable accomodation as long as it does not create a hardship on the employer and/or the business, must be considered.  In this case it was not considered.  Instead they had their own agenda.  They claimed to have consulted our Human Resources Department, which any prudent supervisor would do.  I found out 5 years later they never consulted with our human resources department.  What they eneded up doing was create a hostile work environment; I was in fear of losing my job and was spending $200.00 per week on professional help.

At the end of the 6 week probationary period, I was proud to announce that we had placed our home in the country up for sale had purchased a home that was 5 minutes from work.  How about that for dedication.  They were truly pleased that I had kept all my appointments and had even gone a step further and that was to give up my place in the country and move back to the suburbs where houses were 30 feet from each other and instead of 5 acres of land and a nice house, I had the standard 60ft x 100ft lot.  I was released from my probation and given a pat on the back for the effort.

9 years later, however I find myself in the same situation.  I am working for a supervisor that has had no supervisory training, has never spoken to our Human Resources Department, and has little compassion for anyone except herself.  On 2 occasions I have been called into her hard walled, terrace view office to be spoken to about my arrival and departure times.  Explaining to her on each occasion that I have voluntarily disclosed my handicap and also informing her that I am protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  I have made 6 requests for reasonable accomodations and have been turned down all 6 times.  The nature of my job was of such a nature that I did not have to be in the office.  We have developed a very mobile, work anywhere environment, but more importantly I was working on a programming project that was sole sourced and even more interesting, it was being developed on an environment that was easier to work in outside the office than inside.

To add a little twist to this, we have another employee in our department that works from home 98% of the time.  She does this so that she can save money on childcare.  Her children are quite healthy and have no special medical needs and neither does she, it is just more economically beneficial to her and her husband for her to work from home.  Her arrangement was approved with no question.  However, our company does not have any policies that allow for the convenience of the employee to be able to work from home, telecommute, to save money on childcare.

So it becomes a very delicate balance – Panic Anxiety Workplace. 

I made our departmental Human Resources Representative aware of my 6 requests and the reasons for the requests.  She did not understand the condition, nor did she take any interest in being educated on the situation, but did say that it needed to be looked in to and they would be scheduling a time with me to discuss the matter.  That was over a month ago and there has been no contact.

What I did not mention before now is that after each request for a reasonable accommodation, they made my job harder and more demands.  I had been pushed into working 7 days a week, 10-16 hours a day.  I had not had a day off in several months until my doctor put me on Short Term Disability.  The company is furious.  My project still had some open holes that needed to be finished but I could not finish them because of the Medical Disability.

So where does this leave us?  Well here are some tips and guidelines that should go along to help in the journey.  It is of no great surprise that between 1992 and 2008, that the following recoveries were made on behalf of Anxiety Disorder complaints filed with the EEOC: 

$21,397,837 1,082

Anxiety Disorder

Here are my tips:

  • Disclose your condition to your immediate supervisor.  Help him/her understand what it means and what it does not mean.  Speak in easy to understand terms.  Provide links or printed information.
  • On your initial employment forms, voluntarily disclose the condition as a handicap.  This helps establish history.
  • Do NOT exploit your condition.
  • Document any and all requests for reasonable accomodation, including who, what, where, when and why. Include the outcome.  Generally one request and denial is not grounds for an EEOC complaint, but every situation is different.
  • Get plugged into a doctor and stay plugged in.  Do not run from doctor to doctor, ER to ER to try and find the diagnosis that you are seeking.
  • If you reach a period that becomes a little harder for you (for example November to January tend to be harder for me,) let your supervisor know.
  • Likewise if you and your healthcare provider have found a combination of medicine, food, therapy, etc that works and you get better, let your supervisor know as well.
  • Also realize that it is human nature and we can not change it, but you will have to work harder, double check your work for accuracy and be better than the person in the next cube.

As with every post, I hope there is something here that helps you find some steps towards recovery, because ultimately, that is the destination we seek instead of remaining like mice in a round room looking for the corner.

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Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Calista Takach on April 22nd, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

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