Psycho-Babble Medication | about biological treatments | Framed
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The best defense ...

Posted by Bob on September 19, 1999, at 16:05:45

In reply to Re: Depression and Work, posted by Tom on September 18, 1999, at 21:46:32

I'm glad you brought it forward, Tom! I was going to start a new thread along the same lines ... but I'm really glad I joined this board AFTER the end of August -- I had a lot of venting to do right then.

The past six months, I've been coming to terms with my depression being something that I will have to manage all my life, with it being a neurological disorder and not some pattern of behavior I simply needed enough willpower to overcome. Tho that was deeply depressing for me, it did open up some different ways of thinking, similar to what a number of folks have mentioned--make no apologies, take no prisoners. The best defense is a good offense.

When I was on the faculty at Fordham University, I tried my best to hide my disorder as the pressure increased and my anxiety peaked. I would head into my office at 10 and shut the door behind me, play solitaire for a few hours, sneak out for lunch, sneak back in, play solitaire for a few more hours, then emerge to teach my evening classes. It felt like being in a constant state of panic, but I felt I had to do it, that getting in to the office instead of hiding at home was a victory in and of itself. All the same, there I was in the middle of a department filled with school and counseling psychology faculty, all of whom were warm and supportive and concerned about helping a junior faculty member succeed.

When I left there for work in a non-profit doing educational programming (training middle school teachers in science), I felt like I had spent two years in a lie. I had been in therapy for about a year by then, and had just started taking meds (my first trial on zoloft and my manic response to it). So, being a psychologist myself (research, not clinical) I felt I had a responsibility to come "out of the closet" (out of the padded room?) about my depression, my treatment, and whatever meds I was on.

I made a point of telling my new boss, and keeping her informed of any change in medication. We have a small department -- only one other permanent employee and two other positions which should be permanent, but they've been a revolving door for people on the way from one job to another. For them, I've always brought it up rather matter-of-factly whenever it was warranted.

A year ago August is when things began to fall apart between me and my boss. I was just starting to feel the effects of a bad drug interaction. At the time, we were looking at submitting a grant proposal to work in some schools and expand the training we do. Two of the three school districts we were working with bailed at the last minute, and in my panic-riddled state I couldn't see a way to rewrite the grant for this circumstance, so it didn't get submitted. A few months later, after my boss returns from maternity leave, the feces begins to hit the fan. I get this "informal" letter from her describing my "productivity problems" ... including several that were pure fabrications (and I had the means of demonstrating they were so).

I work relationship continued to slowly deteriorate until this past June -- time for my annual progress revue. Of course, we had some clear differences in certain areas. What was also clear, from her written comments, was that she had never considered my disorder as a possible explanation for any of the problems she had seen. Anyway, knowing a slight bit about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ok, dj? ;^), I basically said "You had a biological condition last summer (pregnancy) for which our company made reasonable accommodations. I have a biological condition that at times influences my job performance -- I want reasonable accommodations made as well." We agreed that since neither of us new what these should be, that we'd work on suggestions. For starters, she suggested I should close my office door when my sudden attacks of drowsiness (side effect from my meds) comes on so I can take a short break. I suggested that I keep a list of tasks on my office white board and the she come in daily to check it -- to make sure we agree on what our priorities were and that I was able to stay focused.

Two weeks later, on her last day in the office prior to a month on vacation, she drops a letter in my lap describing some new supplemental evaluation process that would be implemented this fall for me, with a threat in there that I could loose my job.

She made a big mistake taking that month off. It gave me a ton of time to get informed and get organized. I also tend to stutter and stammer when I'm as angry as I was then, so turning that into a rather cold, hard anger also has helped.

Suffice to say, (1) she conducted her original evaluation improperly as our company has a standards document for this purpose, and she did not follow it, (2) no provision is company policy is made for this additional evalution, (3) her comments in my evaluation rarely speak of observable behaviors but instead mention character judgments (she describes in the end as being "essentially unreliable"), (4) I have better than 40 teachers, school administrators, and college faculty who would quickly contradict her assessment of my performance, (5) she has even admitted that our project, under my management, is doing much better than a year ago.

The list goes on ... and I *have* been keeping good notes.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has an excellent description of the ADA and what support it provides. Title 1 of the ADA deals with workplace issues. Areas in which the ADA protects folks like us include in promotion and pay raise consideration. My boss has blown it big time on both these issues, and now I'm just jumping through all the hoops necessary to take legal action.

One critical aspect of claiming proctection under the ADA is that YOU MUST INFORM your employer and take whatever reasonable steps you can to avoid litigation. Finding that out just last month, I am glad I came out about my disorder, even if my boss is too prejudiced to acknowledge it. She has known the full story since day 1. Trying to work things out with her was step 2. Step 3 was working through my company's human resource director. She's siding with the company. So, I'm preparing my next step -- a rebuttal of the original evaluation with an addendum on how company policy has been trashed in this process. If the HR director refuses to take action, I take it to the CEO (thank goodness it's a small non-profit!). If the CEO refuses to resolve the issue to my satisfaction, then I file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the folks responsible for monitoring workplace discrimination. If they find merit in my complaint, they'll either take up the case themselves or issue me a "right to sue" letter.

My non-profit is a very public company dealing with issues of scientific, technological and medical advocacy. This issue getting public would be a huge black eye for them. It would also jeopardize millions of dollars in state and federal funding they receive, as they must maintain their EEOC compliance to keep getting the funds.

So wish me luck...and thanks for letting me vent. I don't know if anyone else out there has had to deal with explicit, overt workplace discrimination, but I'm finding out quite a bit about myself through the process. There's one aspect my GP pointed out to me that really perked me up and I'd like for all of us to be able to say:

I refuse to be victimized by anyone for who I am.

Oh, for those worried about switching meds ... that's how my GP got involved. SSRIs mess with my cholesterol so bad, he wants me off of them. Unfortunately, I don't have the freedom to experiment. Even dropping my dosage on Zoloft from 200mg/day to 150 was enough to send me sliding pretty bad. In the mean time, my cholesterol was over 280 and my triglycerides off the scale. My GP put me on Lipitor (yet another drug for which my co-pays are going to support their TV ad campaign), and I appear to be responding well to it (one month on it and a drop of 40 points). So, the way I see it, my boss' bigotry is threatening my physical health as well.

I grabbed a number of helpful docs from the NAMI site and printed them out for my boss and my HR director. They did help a bit with my boss, which means they may work even better with someone with a more open mind. I hope NAMI doesn't mind ... I have them saved as PDFs and I'll put them up on my website for interested parties to view/download/print. Go to to view them -- they should be up by midnight Sunday.





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Psycho-Babble Medication | Framed

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