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Letting an employer down


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I don't know where to post this, it covers bipolar, depression and employment.

I work at a planetarium, presenting shows and giving tours of constellations in the night sky. It's the coolest job on the planet and my employers love me. I take pride in my work and there's something very comforting about being in the round, womblike theatre, stars turning overhead, removed from the rest of the world, that takes me out of myself and tends to balance out my head.

Several months ago they offered me a full-time position, and were very clear that I was their number one candidate for the job. After agonizing over it, I decided to turn it down. Not only have I had a 10-15% miss-rate at other jobs, but the pressure and monotony of full-time work contributes to the kind of stress that eventually sends me to the loon bin. Days after I thanked them and politely declined, they actually had a co-worker call me to try to talk me into taking the job - in other words, they really wanted me! But I said no - 40 hours a week would be a time bomb for me.

They ended up hiring a piece of dead wood who doesn't know a thing about astronomy and couldn't be less interested. He walks around with headphones on - you have to tell him to take the damn earpieces out if you want to talk to him. A total idiot slacker has what could have been my job if I weren't MI.

I made it clear to my employers that despite my rejection of the full time postition, I wanted to work as much as possible. I've been taking as many shifts as I can, in fact, I haven't turned down any that they've offered me.

Last Monday I was scheduled to run a show for an astronomy class. It was an elaborate show, which I had to practice for several times before I was scheduled to run it. Then Monday comes along, and I'm hit with depression so debilitating, I would have checked myself into the hospital if I thought the hospital could do anything for me. I didn't want to call in sick, but I had that feeling... I took all the necessary drugs and even put my makeup on, but I ended up calling them from bed, in tears, having to cancel my shift. I know they were totally depending on me, and there wasn't anyone else who could run the show. It sucked. I even called in later to apologize.

Tonite I saw my supervisor for the first time since Monday. I apoligized to her for having to call in. I told her that I would have made it if I could.. But how can you explain immobilizing depression to someone who has never experienced it? I felt like an ass for letting her down. She thanked me for apologizing. But I want to be perfect, I never want to let anyone down, especially this job that I love. I felt my failure so acutely as I walked out. And it's all the worse knowing that slacker dork has the job they had slated for me.

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Aww mad genius, that's tough. I'm sorry. On the one hand, it's good that you turned down an offer that you felt you couldn't perform optimally in. On the other hand it sucks that they have to rely on that slacker guy...

In addition to the meds, is talking to them an option? You're not full time, they love you, it sounds like they are happy to work within your constraints, as they are.

I'm saying this as someone who also works in a contract position, and am pretty open about my ADD and depression. I know that's not an option for everyone. But they like you, and you have medical issues. They might end up being more understanding than you suspect.

At the very least, it sounds like you're agonizing over not being able to take them up on their offer and not telling them why. Would it help a bit to clear the air?

They already know what a good worker you are. I tihnk they might be empathetic to your medical situation. What do you think?

lily

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i agree with both VE and lily- you should probably have better protection against future episodes, and you could consider speaking to your employer- actually disclosing.

i've had disclosure work and not work, but it seems that it would work in your case, at least from what you've said .then they'd understand why you couldn't take the full time job, and why you couldn't do the show. they'd understand that you have a medical problem- you're not just some slacker.

i imagine they probably already suspect something along those lines anyway. a good employee doesn't just turn down full-time work but then pick up all kind of other work, and then practice and practice for shows only to cancel. you haven't said that you have any physical limitations, but you obviously have a problem- they probably already suspect it, if they've thought about it.

if it is possible to disclose, i think now may be a good time.

loon

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I'm not positive feeling about disclosure

just my personal MO

as a part-timer you are not on any medical insurance, right?

even if you had a physical prob (hemorraging whatever)

any condition at all seems like, would justify them keeping you as a part-timer

and yano there's so much good about being a part-timer if you can afford it

keep it as such

the freedom of not having to tell every freaking reason why you do or don't want to show IMO is worth alot

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I had disclosed to them, one day (between turning down the f/t job and the depression that made me miss work) when I showed up pumped to the gills with meds and ended up crying my face off in the break room anyway. I figured that was a good time to say something. My supervisor's response to "I have bipolar disorder" was "I am familiar with it", and that was that. No dialogue.

There was one other time, a few days before I had to miss work, when I was starting to feel iffy from an especially demanding schedule combined with life-stress, when I alerted my supervisor that I was entering into risky territory. At the time, I had no idea I was about to have a breakdown, but I suspected it might be possible. Of course, they just want you to come in and work. She compared my bipolar disorder to her asthma (both chronic illnesses) so I hoped she had some insight into my condition.

But I didn't expect her to be so curt when I came in to apologize for missing my shift. She didn't even look at me when I was talking to her. Maybe she was just having a bad day, but her anger seemed directed at me for a personal failure. I didn't expect that kind of reaction after I'd spoken to her about my condition.

I think when it comes down to it, well-meaning non MI people can try to understand, or think they understand, but at the end of the day they really have no comprehension of what it's like if they've never experienced anything like that themselves.

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sorry about this experience for you MG

but really,

I think it's all about work

when you are at work sounds like you are a dynamite workerbee

but if you don't show

means they can't depend on you

so if you're not there

doesn't matter how much of a genius you are

not meaning to rag you down

just sharing life experience with ya

even if your boss was your best friend

who knew allll about MI

and totally supported you away from work

when it comes to work

it's a whole different ballgame

the only people who MIGHT be more understanding

would be the medical world

or maybe a non-profit group?

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when it comes to work

it's a whole different ballgame

the only people who MIGHT be more understanding

would be the medical world

or maybe a non-profit group?

Well, true...employers do need to count on people...but depression is a real illness, and it's not like you didn't show without calling (as I read it) or don't have other strengths.

That said, if your supervisor is clearly PO'd, I would have a serious talk with her right away. Explain the extent of your illness completely and see if she can accomodate the issues it causes. You probably fall under ADA laws, but getting legal protection when mentally ill is a giant hassle.

Do you love the job enough to fight for it? Or should you maybe pursue something with a more flexible schedule/duties where if you don't show, the show doesn't go on! (That reminds me of one time wnen my churches' music person who had depressive issues didn't show for a major religious event and we alll had to sing A Capella! Actually, though I liked it...but I'm sure it didn't make the minister too happy!)

BLW, re: chUCKIT's well-intentioned suggestion to seek work in the medical and/or non-profit world as a solution: I suggest--DON'T. I worked in the non profit sector for 15 years and was fired 4 times. One of them might have been deserved or inevitable given the politics, but the others were based on politics and/or the everpresent cutbacks. Also, non-profits are notoriously understaffed...not the best if one sometimes needs a helping hand. Finally, they are VERY political. Board members, clients, managment, coworkers--they all pull you ten directions. I am now trying to get into the for profit sector. Maybe concrete or plastics...something solid!

As for the medical world, I also worked at a medical school/hospital and that was awful too.

I wouldn't say there are no nice nonprofits/health places to work, but just that it's not a panacea.

Good luck. They don't call it work for nothing. :-(

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Aw maddy... I'm so sorry you had a meltdown during something that was obviously important to you. Those times when the disease takes away the things that make us proud are so hard.

I have to say that I admire your self-awareness in knowing your limits. I admire both what you do and the fact that you see it is important and meaningful.

This disease is crap. We just have to muddle through.

All the best to you!

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