Sunday, December 2, 2012

Top posts today on Chronic Perseverance (an inspiring facebook page)

Chronic Perseverance Facebook Page

So, certainly not original content you're getting here from me, but this page inspires me often, so I keep posting her posts and linking to them on my facebook illness page (Invisibly ~ Ill).  Today's are too good to let slip by and I can only click share so many times a day on facebook.

So, click on some music (or play some in real life if you are old fashioned like me), sit back, and enjoy these (enough to give you some calm breathes but not so many they exceed a typical sick person attention or energy span).  Or better yet, check out her facebook page.  It's great.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why people don't blog about discrimination

My posts mention fairly frequently the fact that personal stories can be hard to come by, particularly if you seek a particular type of story to mirror your own.  In the medical on-line community, patients share stories, blog rather prolific-ly, and participate in forums and online discussions.  Since disability issues quickly become legal issues, I can understand why victims are hesitant to reach out too publicly.  And/or they learn the hazards of doing so fairly quickly.

I blogged quite a bit as my mental stamina improved again last year, and since I was in the middle of a horrible legal battle for my job, I created this blog to keep that negativity separate from my other blogs, which were increasingly positive and cheery as I began to get my life back (or at least a life back).

I joked over time that 'the government' (the source of my employment and issues) must be reading my blog, based partly on the type of posts that seem to get spikes in readership, and the uncanny timing those spikes also had in relationship to my then-on-going discrimination complaint process.  I was purely joking, though; poking fun at the idea that they would care about my inner-most feelings and at the paranoia I'd have to embrace to really think it was true.

Unfortunately, I later found it to be true (by traumatic means I'm prohibited from discussing) and I felt very intimidated and scared.  Although I don't believe I had done anything wrong, I listened to legal advice to not tempt fate.  I went through this blog and turned most of my posts to 'draft' status to un-post them and/or delete them.

I felt strongly about sharing my story because as much as I dug for other people's stories, they were hard to find.  But with all I'd been through, and a chance to return to work and help dig my family out of the financial abyss, I opted for self preservation.  I had no reason to think my venting was helping anyone in the first place and altruism had already cost my family quite enough for the year.

I also saw things differently as my health improved, in regards to how much information to share.  I'd been in patient mode, where quite a bit of detail is shared fairly freely (because the support given and received is far less valuable otherwise).  I didn't know how realistic it was to even be attempting to return to work with the same people who'd destroyed my life.

A reader proficient in the EEO process may be thinking about now that the law protects complainants from retaliation.  But, then, the same readers probably also recognize (consciously or otherwise) that there is no real way to prevent it and that trusting to be protected from it means placing your faith in a system you've just been or are still being failed by.  It's not a wise protection to bank on when you've just had your eyes so violently opened.

As my typing this indicates, I feel safer now.  Partly because most of the people responsible for my situation were suddenly gone by early summer and that others involved were no longer in as close proximity.  But also because management in general has become more and more supportive over time.

Even the cynic in me would have to admit that even in the worst case scenario--say, for example, that they are only pretending to be supportive, which I don't believe is the case, but hypothetically--the result is a safer-feeling work situation.  Not perfect, by any means, but steadily improving and increasingly safe.  Safe for me in the context of work relates to a workplace free of emotional trauma (NOT typical workplaces stresses, mind you---trauma!) where my health can continue to improve and where I don't need to worry that my job could be taken away at any time (or that there are people with a desire to make that happen).

So, I'm not sure yet if I'll start blogging more like this or not.  I think it's safer to do so.  I'd like to think it is.  I work for an agency full predominately of caring and amazing people.  People who support me with donated leave, empathy, and friendship.

Energy not spent saving or protecting my job is energy I can spend learning to care the right amount about work so that the right amount of energy can go to my kids, my recovery (medications, symptoms, continued testing, etc.), my marriage, my girlscout troop.....friends and family that I've had virtually no emotional ability to keep up with these past couple of years.

When you are deep inside of all of this, you may not be well enough to share your story, or your inclination to share too much could be dangerous.  When you're on your way out of it, it is natural to be scared to rock the boat or jeopardize the sanity you think you're about to have access to.  When you're beyond it, moving on is the most tempting thing in the world.

So, in the end, I do realize the lack of abundance of personal stories is not so surprising.  But, still, it's a shame.  I think in at least some cases victims of discrimination could gain the same on-line benefits from one another as patients do.

But if most of us have to choose between sharing and moving on, the choice is not a hard one.  In the end, I guess my hope is that the lack of stories indicates that this all passes, life goes on, and the people who found their way through are out there living life with the rest of the world.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chronic Perseverence

From a chronic illness page on facebook worth 'liking' ~ Chronic Perseverence

And another from her page:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Found a new site ~ Working With Chronic Illness

So, from time to time I still try to google for sites and stories linking working or fighting to work with a chronic illness.  Most specifically, though less often than I used to, I search and search for personal stories about discrimination and this topic, scouring the internet for success stories.  For people who made their way back and have something to say about it.

Most searches lead to the same list of legal resources and government or private EEO process legal documents.  Nothing directly human most of the time.

This lack of story and lack of detail post-process is very understandable.  When you come through it, or when you're in it, and you get to the point where you realize that all of the fears you had about who might read your blog were not paranoid (and that you weren't actually afraid enough), you tend to start taking things down.  Not because it was untrue or wrong to post, but because you are prudently afraid and thoroughly familiar with the consequences that could follow.  It is not worth inviting trouble and not worth further sacrificing whatever bit of your health you survived the process still in possession of.

But today, this was the first hit. -thoughts on navigating your career-

"contrary to popular opinion, work can be good for your health ~ when you live with chronic illness"

I (and I would be capatalized if blogger weren't suddenly not allowing me to capitalize an I) haven't dug very far yet, but give it a try, it looks very promising!

Realistic Discrimination Survivorship

It's great to be able to post about returning to work, about recovery, about gratitude for surviving a legal process related to illness and work.  It's also OK to look back and say, "that was really, really wrong."  It's good to be wiser for the wear and to see parallels with other injustices---to know that there is a cavernous gap between how things should work and how they do.  This is not bitterness---it is life after seeing things most people only see faintly enough to be able to ignore.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Blog article link: Six Positive Professional Development Strategies for the Toxic Workplace

The first two strategies from the article (based on strategies in a Psychology Today article):

1. Keep the Focus on You

As the Psychology Today article points out, it helps to start by keeping the focus on you and your responses to various situations. You can't control what other people do or say, but you can control how you respond. Recognizing this can be empowering and broaden the range of options for dealing with the situation that open themselves up to you. 
I also find that when you keep the focus on you, it's easier to treat your current situation as a learning experience. You can ask yourself on a regular basis, "How can I get the most out of this situation so that I can continue to build myself for the next opportunity I decide to pursue?" 
2. Reframe Your Experience
One of the most helpful things I've found in dealing with toxic situations is finding a way to reframe my experience. For me, Positive Professional Development is about finding ways to learn from what's happening to us, asking positive questions that can lead us to a different way of processing our lives. So if you're in a toxic work environment or are encountering a particular challenge, asking the right kinds of questions can help you re-frame things. Some possible questions to ask include:
  • What is good about this situation? What can I appreciate and focus on?
  • What am I focusing on in this situation and how can I focus on getting MORE of what I want, rather than less?
  • What do I believe is realistically possible in this situation? How can I broaden my beliefs to expand the possiblities? 
  • What learning is available to me in this situation? How can I be open to that learning and focusing on what I can learn rather than on the negatives? 
  • What small thing can I do to make the situation just a little easier or better?
This isn't to suggest that you should tolerate a bad situation forever, but sometimes asking these kinds of positive questions can help you begin to shift into a more positive frame of mind and, therefore, into more possibilities for dealing with the situation. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

'Chris in the Morning' ~ Howl the eternal yes!

One of the first things I ever heard the Chris Stevens character say, on the 90's show "Northern Exposure":

There's a dark side to each and every human soul. We wish we were Obi-Wan Kenobi, and for the most part we are, but there's a little Darth Vader in all of us. Thing is, this ain't no either-or proposition. We're talking about dialectics, the good and the bad merging into us. You can run but you can't hide. My experience? Face the darkness. Stare it down. Own it. As brother Nietzsche said, being human is a complicated gig. So give that ol' dark night of the soul a hug. Howl the eternal yes!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Another strawberry shortcake post about hope and decency

Disability Discrimination: a Thing of the Past?

"The question is: what can we do to strengthen the civil rights laws currently on the books so that we all can get in the door, get on the bus, attain and maintain employment and all the other things that many feel are part of a well–rounded, meaningful life?"

There are processes in place, certainly, but how protected do these processes actually make us?  Is there ever an end to the ramifications of utilizing the processes that are supposed to protect us?  Employ one and you will see, subtle and non-subtle consequences will plague your every waking moment if you try to remain validly gainfully employed afterward.

These processes neither mandate nor encourage compassion, decency, respect, or fairness if you are fortunate enough to retain your job.  It really doesn't matter how low you keep your head down.  Nor how honest or good you are.  If perceptions have already been swayed, there is no provision for correcting them.  Even when some level of advocacy or communication is present, there is no venue for explaining or demonstrating your true character, nor in which it even matters.

Your hope, then, is only that much more exhausting and difficult to maintain.  Without it, there's only bitterness and the danger of sinking to their level.  Hope and decency are therefore such a conundrum......they are simultaneously my biggest liability and my biggest necessity.  I will probably always be this cheesy, but I'd rather be cheesy and hopeful at least part of the reminds that they can take just about everything and still not suck the good out of me.  My clean clear conscience is such a blessing and I'm still glad I'm wired this way.  I've been called too sensitive, too inclusive, too nice at times when these were all intended as accusations.  The only accusations that were actually true!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"So what’s the cost of poor management? Answer: A lot."

The Cost of Low Quality Management (Article on Manager by Design blog)

The Manager by Design Blog provides helpful tips for how managers can improve their people management skillsand team management skills.  The blog also advocates for the new field of “Management Design,” where managers are created systematically rather than placed into an arena where they have to perform without systematic help.
But is this really needed?  Aren’t managers performing well already?  Do managers need to improve how they perform?
Here’s a survey of some recent articles that discuss this very topic.  Warning: It may not be pretty.
Poor Managers may cause illness and heart attacks: According to a recent study in Sweden, poor management increases both the amount of sick leave and creates a greater risk of heart attack.  Conversely, those with good managers had less sick time.  More info can be found here.
Poor Managers hurt productivity and profitability: In 2004, an ongoing Gallup survey that indicates poorly managed workgroups are an average of 50% less productive and 44% less profitable than their well-managed counterparts. (Cited here and here ) and in the May 1, 2005 edition of HR Focus.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Twitter encouragement (lobsterquotes)

Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it~John B. Putnam Jr.

Don’t look further for answers: be the solution. You were born with everything you need to know~Ellerby                                                                                                                                                                 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


"Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasion move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil; so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas."
— Benjamin Franklin

"The right type of [leader] is democratic. He must not consider himself a superior sort of personage. He must actually feel democratic; it is not enough that he try to pose as democratic—he must be democratic, otherwise the veneer, the sheen, would wear off, for you can't fool a body of intelligent American workingmen for very long. He must ring true."
—Thomas Coleman Du Pont

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything."
— Mark Twain

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Article Link ~ 15 powerful things happy people do differetly

Worth reading....if you are mired in issues, it may not be in your control, but if you're in a lull (a calm between storms or recovering from the trauma of having stood up for yourself), it's good to remind yourself to employ these things or to give yourself a pat on the back for the things you're doing well.

1. Love vs. Fear
2. Acceptance vs. Resistance
3. Forgiveness vs. Unforgiveness
4. Trust vs. Doubt
5. Meaning vs. Ambition
6. Praising vs. Criticizing
7. Challenges vs. Problems
8. Selflessness vs. Selfishness
9. Abundance vs. Lack/Poverty
10. Dreaming Big vs. Being Realistic
11. Kindness vs. Cruelty
12. Gratitude vs. Ingratitude
13. Presence/Engagement vs. Disengagement
14. Positivity vs. Negativity
15. Taking Responsibility vs. Blaming

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Um, did the FDA really hack their staffers?" ~ Article Link

The article (worth reading): Congressmen: Do Government Agencies Regularly Spy On Federal Employees' E-Mails? (from

An extreme example, to be sure, but maybe as government employees we should more routinely ask ourselves just where our trust in our employers comes from.  Perhaps from not seeing (or choosing not to see) what really happens to fellow employees who fall out of favor (or become inconveniently disabled)?  It can take a pretty seriously traumatic and heart breaking experience to really make/let you see what's around you. But once you see it, I think you sound too bitter or paranoid to be seen as credible and people cannot remain comfortable if they see the gravity of the problems.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"No ordinary May 1" ~ Link to blog post on Universal worker's rights

International Labor Organization (ILO) Director-General Juan Somavia says on this May Day, the continuing economic crisis is “hitting workers hardest” and economic policies of the past decade “have downgraded the meaning of decent work.”
In too many places we have lost the basic notion that labor is not a commodity. So, this is no ordinary May 1. It comes at a time when deep-rooted interests are pushing to go back to business-as-usual, arguing that this is just another crisis that can be solved applying the same old recipes. It is not.  
Click here to read more from Somavia.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sunday, March 11, 2012

We're not alone.....keep swimming

Some days, you search for just one story like yours, and there's just nothing out there.  Some days even the basic ADA links won't take you where they're supposed to.  It's as if we're each destined to re-invent the wheel, rather than learn from each other.

Partly, it may be that our stories are all so unique that we have to build our own wheel.  It also may be the sensitivity of the topic.  Partly it is very likely and validly the fear of damaging our case or claim or hire-ability.  And we're often just too tired or down to want to write about it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

ADA and CFS (article link)

"It is not a question of whether or not you can do the job, but whether or not the job is accessible to you and your co-workers receptive to you."

Read the article here

"People with CFS face a tremendous economic challenge. Some persons with CFS are forced into the nightmare of red tape seeking financial assistance from the federal government. Others are trying to remain economically independent by seeking new employment, remaining in present positions or attempting to return to work. These persons with CFS may benefit from some accommodation from their employers. But, CFS may be an invisible disability. There may be no readily apparent need for accommodation. This may cause a misunderstanding in the work place. A person with CFS may be perceived as being: lazy, unmotivated or antisocial. This may create a stressful work environment and lower the person's "with CFS" chances for success."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Useful link to "feel good techniques" post

I think the tips in this post (chronic fatigue and mindfulness) would work on multiple types of illnesses, and would be particularly useful when working your way back to work.  Returning to work brings some symptoms into focus that were somewhat extraneous while just being a sick person.  Many of them are easy to trace back to a possible cause when you've had practice, so mindfulness of "where it is" (in reference to the mindfulness question this author uses, which is "where is it now?") is useful.

I've used articles previously that get into greater depth regarding testing assumptions and changing patterns and beliefs, but this one is a nice little reminder.  I'm not as accepting of the idea that poor coping causing my illness or similar ones.  I concede contributory causality maybe, and that stress is absolutely something that impacts symptoms and recovery time. 

But from that point in the discussion on, one has to consider that coping skills are tremendously related to where we are in our illness and what symptoms we are dealing with.....sleep and food problems and major declines/crashes hugely impede any hope of just taking stressful events in stride, so when stresses start to converge, you have to do your best to cope before the spiral starts and remember that mindfulness and coping will help, but that your physical and even emotional responses become physically impacted by your illness.  Mind over matter thinking can be very dangerous in these kinds of illnesses.....techniques make a huge difference, but if you ignore what's happening physically, you'll like miss major obstacles to the techniques you're trying to employ.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Testing perceptions

Perceptions can help you navigate the world around you; they are necessary when you don't otherwise have access to, or time to gather, all the information necessary to draw conclusions based on fact. 

But how often do we remember to test the accuracy of our perceptions?  How often do we allow our trust in our perceptions to become so habitual that we:

- Share our perceptions with others as fact?
- Act on them before we've tested them?
- Use them in place of facts we should have gathered?
- Forget to replace them when better information becomes available?

When any of these things happen, we allow ourselves to behave in ways we would not have been proud of if we had seen the full picture.  This is, of course, easier to see and acknowledge when we are victims of other people's perceptions.  The more often we see it happen to us, and the larger the scale of the consequences, the easier it is to become paranoid about, or overly sensitive to, the perceptions of others.  Because this sensitivity is based on real experience, it often leads to fears that are unfortunately at least somewhat logical to harbor.  The fact that they are even remotely factually based (in a way our mind's eye can trace back and remind itself of) makes these fears very difficult to let go of.

In order to let go of these fears, even when we've identified them, we need to test conclusions we've drawn and cemented subconsciously.  Concusions based on fact and based on painful experiences we can replay to remind ourselves that we have a solid foundation for these fears.
But it we play devils' advocate and defend our minds eyes' fears, supporting the notion that these perceptions are every bit as dangerous to us as they seem, what can we do about the imminent threat they (hypothetically) pose to us?

I would argue that in the rare instance that something can be done, it is typically much, much less than we convince ourselves we could do when we are desperately searching and churning and using valuable mental and physical energy that we need for other things.

In the rare instance that something can be done, the opportunity will virtually never come fast enough to give us the relief we are churning and searching for.

This blog post (How to Overcome Perceptions) is a great reminder that the route to changing perceptions is not (or at least is very seldom) through offering further facts, since the perception is feeling, rather than fact based, and because the person has very likely already subconsciously opted not to consider different facts associated with a perception they've already adopted.

Attempting to change perceptions through actions takes a great deal of patience and does not offer short term protections.  So I would argue that one should be seeking change in themselves where perceptions they don't like carry some element of truth, plus changing the perception through action if it is a perceptions worth changing, while questioning your assumptions about the real risks other people's perceptions pose (and the actual potential of changing them) as often as we can remember to do so.

Optimally, we can figure out next how to assess the right amount of effort to expend and the right amount of value to ascribe to chaning the perceptions we think we can change.