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Catnapper

I'm so upset - just been put on 60 day probation at work - bipolar depression sucks!

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Posted (edited)

I'm sitting here crying my eyes out - I just had a voice-only meeting with my boss and the HR rep (thank god it wasn't in person) about all the time I missed last year, and how my work wasn't getting done. I am now most of the way out of the worst depressive episode I've ever had thanks to ECT, but last year at work was terrible. In hindsight I should have started the medical leave that I just finished a lot sooner. 

I work for a great company because most places would have fired me a long time ago, but it turns out my boss has been keeping a written record on me since maybe March of last year, without mentioning it to me until today. So I have 60 days to get my shit together.

ECT has been postponed due to coronavirus, but luckily I was only one treatment short of my index series. For those who don't know, in the beginning of ECT you have two to three treatments a week for a total of 12 or so treatments, and perhaps maintenance monthly or so after that. I feel I'm slipping, I see my pdoc every week and he is contacting the ECT program to see if I can get started back. Right now it's only through admission to the ER, and then they might give you ECT.

I'm just so upset. I live alone, and the only money I'll ever have is what I bring in myself. Goddamn how I hate this stupid fucking disease!!!

Edited by Catnapper
{edited for typos}

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I’m sorry you have that to deal with. I’ve been through bipolar depression and it’s not like you can just stop it at will. I hope you can keep your job. Don’t know where you live, are there disability protections maybe?  I agree, bipolar sucks. 

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Are you sure they're not trying to fire you for taking too much medical leave?  A place I worked really loved to do that until they got sued too much because they were too large.  I assume you're under US law if you're in the Baptist South; I'm pretty sure that firing you for taking medical leave is super illegal...  I'm not sure if they're firing you for just the leave, but it kind of sounds like they're really getting into all kinds of legal liability territory that I know very little about, just that this sounds super iffy, but unfortunately common.  

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41 minutes ago, Banana Smurf said:

Are you sure they're not trying to fire you for taking too much medical leave?  A place I worked really loved to do that until they got sued too much because they were too large.  I assume you're under US law if you're in the Baptist South; I'm pretty sure that firing you for taking medical leave is super illegal...  I'm not sure if they're firing you for just the leave, but it kind of sounds like they're really getting into all kinds of legal liability territory that I know very little about, just that this sounds super iffy, but unfortunately common.  

 Yes, I'm sure they're trying to fire me. But since it's a huge multi-national corporation, I assume they have an HR manual with 1,000 pages of procedures they have to follow first before they give me the boot. 

It's freaking me out more than it normally would because I'll be 61 in June, and I don't have a college degree, and I have a job that usually requires an advanced degree. But it sounds like I have a job for the next 60 days, which considering the coronavirus economic crisis, is something to be thankful for. 

 

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I'm sorry you're going through this, it sounds incredibly stressful. The situation doesn't sound right to me either - especially if your job performance is fine when you're not sick.

Any good labor attorney will give you a free consultation; it might not be a bad idea to get in touch with one and explain your situation, see what they have to say.

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I’ve also heard of people getting their pdoc involved as a way to “certify” that this was a necessary response to a chronic illness 

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I'm so sorry you're dealing with this with everything going on right now! I have lived exactly what you're going through (except I was 51 at the time), and can relay from experience that the very next thing you need to look into is federal job protection through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you qualify, it has the weight of federal law in protecting your job (tho not your wages). Please take a look at https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla , and I wish the very best for you.

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I'm sorry Catnapper.  That's so upsetting, and I was in a similar situation at my last job.  It makes me nervous for my new one.  I hope I won't get to that point.  I felt numb and like a fuck up all at once.  I hope you can get through this.

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you are very brave

trying to work and having ECT, that is just a lot to handle and on your own

sending you hugs and support

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Posted (edited)

Thank you all for your replies. After a few more meetings at work (remotely), I feel better about my situation. Since I was off on medical leave at the end of last year, I didn't complete the employee part of my performance evaluation, so I got the worst possible rating, which resulted in zero bonus for me. My boss and I met last week (without HR) to do our belated end-of-year review, and set goals for this year. Our meeting went a lot better than I expected, and he said (and I believe him, he's a good guy), that if he'd known a bad rating would have resulted in zero bonus, he would have spoken up for me.

Since I got a good mid-year evaluation last year, I said I didn't think it was right that I should get no bonus at all, and my boss agreed, and agreed to bring it up with HR. That left me feeling a lot better about things, because I assume if they were going through all this just to check off all the procedural boxes before  they fire me, the meetings would be as short as possible and my boss would have no interest in pursuing my bonus.

They may still fire me, or course, and if they decide to do furloughs or layoffs, I'm sure I'll be at the top of the list, but whatever, I can't worry about it anymore. It just stresses me out, and as the old saying goes, those who worry suffer twice.

As far as FMLA, I used up last year's (it's good for 12 weeks), and have already used up this year's allotment as well. I spoke with an employment lawyer last year and her take on things was that because it's "employment at will", I don't stand much of a chance if they cut me loose, and the best I could hope for would be an enhanced severance package. So for now, that also falls under things that I'm going to try like hell not to worry about. 

I just finished week three of work after returning from my medical leave, and I'm doing okay, and managing to keep up. Hopefully I can resume maintenance ECT in the near future, and in the meantime my pdoc, who I also see weekly for therapy, has added Viibryd to my cocktail. I'm very thankful I have a job at all at this point, both because of the current economic situation and my past (lack of) performance.

And I'm really glad I have this board to come and sort things out to prevent me from getting trapped only in my head.

Edited by Catnapper
{edited to update FMLA info}
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I'm having weekly meetings with my boss and the HR rep, and today's didn't go very well. It seems funny that earlier in the week I was optimistic. Today I feel like I'm getting set up to be fired.

My boss had really detailed notes of how in his view l prioritized my work incorrectly, and I don't entirely disagree with him. Since I've started slipping back downhill, I can feel my concentration leaving me. 

ECT was working really well for me, but has been temporarily stopped due to the coronavirus. My regular pdoc has added Viibryd to my cocktail, and I'm hoping it kicks in soon. 

I found out today that another big project run by one of my coworkers will probably be cancelled. If/when that happens, I'll probably be out the door as they'll have to cut someone, and now there's documented evidence that I'm at the top of the list. 

I'll be 61 in June, and I really wish I could just retire, but I can't afford to yet. I'm sick of all this stress! 

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I'm sorry it feels like things are taking a turn- could you be second guessing yourself? Does your boss understand how hard you're trying to make it work? I hope so.

Just throwing out another suggestion, but have you thought about Social Security Disability as another option? I'm not positive, but pretty sure a Bipolar diagnosis qualifies pretty quickly, without a lot of protracted appeals, etc.  Just a thought...

I hope the Viibryd is helpful soon!

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It sounds like maybe (I hope) your boss is just trying to give you constructive feedback - I'm not saying I know better than you what the situation is, though. In the past I did a lot of employee reviews, and I think I was always pressured to think of something to be critical about.

I'm really sorry you've had to stop doing maintenance ECT because of the pandemic. I hope the new medication helps.

I think Undun has a good idea about looking into SSDI - it might be worth filing for it just in case things go south at work. I wouldn't say that a Bipolar diagnosis qualifies quickly and without appeals at this point though, from my own experience. I was able to get SSDI fairly quickly, after first getting state disability insurance, but I've since (years later) had a medical review that was not in my favor. If it's something you think you may need, it can't hurt to get started on it, and expect to have to appeal.

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Actually, 0112358 is correct (it's been so long, I'd forgotten that I was initially denied and had to appeal, tho at the time it was for a physical issue). In case you want to take a quick look, here's a link to the NAMI page on SSDI-  https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition/Social-Security-Disability-Insurance-Benefits-Su , and here's the SSA link to the disability evaluation requirements- https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/12.00-MentalDisorders-Adult.htm . Hope you're feeling a little better!

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Thank you all for your help and support, it means a lot to me.

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Posted (edited)

Thank you for starting the thread.  I fear my son is in a similar situation with his job.  Or it may be my typical low threshold for anxiety kicking in.  Some very good advice and links here.

Edited by Will

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Things have come right in the end with my job, at least for the time being. To save you reading this whole thread, here's the short version:

  • I was going deep into the abyss last year and had a terrible year at work, missing a lot of time, screwing up, etc.
  • I started medical leave in November 2019, mainly for depression, but also because I had a knee replacement in December.
  • I had ECT starting in February and got better, and went back to work on May 4, 2020.
  • Shortly after my return, due to my bad performance last year, I was put on a 60 day probation with weekly performance review meetings with my boss and HR, which is what caused me to start this thread in the first place.
  • Although I told my boss right before I went on medical leave that I had bipolar and was in the middle of a terrible depressive episode, at my first performance review meeting I gave both my boss and the HR rep a brief description of bipolar, my experience with it, and how sick I was last year.  

Now, here's the rest of the story:

Not long after starting the weekly performance review meetings, on June 1 the HR rep met with me separately and offered me a severance package of 8 - 12 months, with the stipulation that I had to accept it then; i.e., if I got to the end of the 60 day probation and hadn't done well, I would be cut loose with no severance. I preferred to keep working, but didn't want to take the chance so I accepted the verbal offer, and the HR rep said he had to get approvals, and to say nothing because my boss didn't know about it yet. A few weeks later the HR rep offered me six months instead of 8 - 12 we first talked about, so I asked for more and he said he try to get approval. Then he went on vacation, and I continued weekly meetings with my boss. Even after the HR rep came back from vacation, I didn't hear from him until last Friday, July 19. (The original severance offer was made on June 1.)

In the meantime, I completed the 60 day probation period and my boss was satisfied with my work. At the last meeting on July 8 I asked if he knew about the severance offer, and he said he had heard a little, but not much, so I broke my vow of confidentiality to the HR rep and told my boss the whole story. I continued to work on my assigned projects, and I had a few other unrelated meetings with my boss on technical issues which went really well, so that was promising to me.

The HR rep finally got back in touch last Friday, July 17, and said he could offer me eight months, instead of his starting position of six months. We had a long talk and I said that since my probation period went well, that I was going to gamble eight months of severance and keep working. It's very strange that HR seems to be driving the bus, instead of my boss and our senior managers, but whatever. After I got off the phone with the HR rep, I immediately called my boss and told him that I would prefer to keep working, forget about last year and move forward, and asked if he was okay with me staying. He agreed to making a fresh start, so I have a job, at least until a layoff that may happen due to the overall economic situation.  

As you can imagine, that's a huge relief to me, although I'm still a little skittish because I got a lecture from the HR rep that if I screw up at all, I'm out the door. Although my boss didn't say that, I know he feels the same way, so I'm on thin ice. In the meantime, my regular pdoc has increased my Viibryd to 40 mg and that seems to have brought me back up and the terrible inertia has lifted. I'm not all the way well, but I'm a hell of a lot better and functioning again. Now that I know my work schedule, I will set up some more maintenance ECT treatments, and hopefully this will all just become a bad memory.

I really like my job and the company I work for - they have taken good care of me and didn't fire me even though I gave them plenty of reasons to, and now they are giving me this second chance. I like the people I work with, I enjoy my job, and we do very interesting work that is technically challenging, so I am rarely if ever bored, which is critical to me.

And you'll be pleased to know that last Friday I explained to both my boss and the HR rep about how much ECT has helped me. I'm tired of hiding and all the stigma around mental illness, so fuck it, I am done with pretending. I didn't ask for this stupid goddamn disease so I'm no longer going to try to act like nothing's really wrong with me. I have a serious chronic illness and sometimes I get really sick, and that's just the way it is. I no longer give a shit about who knows, and if anyone wants to talk about bipolar or ECT or meds or whatever, I'm ready to talk.

I'm very thankful to have a good job during these tough times, and glad to have this forum to come and tell my troubles to.

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That sounds good. Personally I don’t trust HR at all, they surely aren’t there to help workers. But if you can keep doing well, you’re in. Having a good job can be stabilizing, too. At my job, bipolar is covered by ADA, but I haven’t revealed it anyway. I hope everything keeps going well. 

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I'm really glad to hear that things are working out right now. I have to say that that is a truly weird HR situation. Probably there's someone other than them driving, but it's probably not who you directly report to. I've had some surprising HR experiences where they really came through for me in big ways. Generally I thought they all had very poor social skills (apologies to anyone who works in HR). They're usually under a lot of pressure from every side that there is.

I still wonder whether they can really take this harsh line with you, given that you had a serious episode of depression on top of having to have a knee replacement. I suppose it matters a lot whether you live in an at-will employment state... can't recall if you do.

Anyway, I hope things continue to go well at work. I hope that talking about your illness and experience with ECT has taken some stress off you, too.

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