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.