Absent without (Family Medical) Leave

I know the DSM-V no longer includes the term “nervous breakdown” anymore. I’m fairly confident even if it did include it, since the origins of my panic attacks, crying, dissociation, and depression are quite well known, I’d still just end up labeled with the “dissociative subtype” of PTSD (aka the compromise that is supposed to cover C-PTSD).

I have had to deal with the 9th Circle of Hell about this damn most recent abuse and medical-neglect-leading-to-multiple-medical-crises case three times within four weeks. I will have to go back to Hell again this month. I’m fielding calls on top of that. I’ve spent a quarter of my take-home pay for the past few months on that shithole, be it in travel fees, medical bills, lawyer’s fees, etc. I’m not even the only one financially contributing to fighting for “care”, but when the cost of failure is potentially life and limb, I’m not questioning it so long as I still have the money. The origins of my distress are not a mystery and fit neatly into the DSM-V trauma disorders bucket. I doubt I’d be said to be having a nervous breakdown even if the term was still diagnostic.

Add on top of the trauma situation itself a boss who lost it with me over email when I politely sent him a notice that I could no longer attend a scheduled internal presentation because I had to speak to state regulators in the 9th of Circle of Hell during that time and was given no choice of times, though, and – all technicalities aside – I think I’m having a nervous breakdown.

My boss reminded me after his email tirade left me crying in my office again that he was under no legal obligation to give me FMLA because our company had less than 50 employees, but that he was “generously willing” to “let me” take the remainder of my vacation days and unpaid leave on top of it to go “fix this” situation. He asked how long I thought I needed, so I gave him a realistic estimate I thought I could afford that would at least get through this immediate crisis as best as possible. He then tried to force me to double it with the statement, “I can’t have employees whose are focused on anything but the company. You better take as long as you need, because if you come back and this thing isn’t over you aren’t worth it to me.” Umm, thanks?

So, boss, you are “generously” forcing unpaid leave on me while I’m financially responsible for someone else so that I can somehow magically “resolve” a crisis that I have spent decades trying to manage in a puff of magical smoke? And, if I don’t “fix it” after your “generous” offer and ever show any human emotion again when I return to the office, I’m no longer an asset to the company? No pressure, there. Thanks, asshole.

Do you know what they call family and medical leave that isn’t protected by even the nebulous safety-net of the FMLA? Just “FML!”

I’m not alone in falling victim to my boss’s dollar-sign-in-place-of-a-soul. I showed the email to another co-worker. I’ve been gaslit enough that I still need people to validate reality and reassure me that I was professional in my email – even though my boss claimed I wasn’t in his tirade – and that he was the one who wasn’t. Everyone I’ve shown the email to has called him a heartless asshole. This particular co-worker revealed that her father has end-stage organ failure. When she requested leave to be with him in what she thought might be his final hospital admission, our boss asked after two days of leave if he actually looked like he was going to die. When she replied she thought he would make it through this current crisis, he pushed that she be back for the next important meeting immediately.

She called the boss’s behavior abusive, but, like me, is afraid to leave the company until she has her next job lined up because of medical costs for her father. It was kind of funny to be asked by someone else if I knew how to recognize the signs of abuse. Oh, yes, I do. I recognize them very well from years of personally experiencing abuse of many kinds. Still, it was sweet of her to ask me that. If this were my first experience with verbal abuse and bullying, I know I’d be immensely grateful that she gave me a label for it so I didn’t think I was crazy. Heck, I still had to validate** I wasn’t crazy even with all I know about abuse because its legacy is insidious. That was why I went to her about the email in the first place! A younger me could have really used being simply told what abuse was, instead of having to figure it out myself after a lifetime of blaming myself for it. (There’s a lesson in this: if someone describes a situation that sounds abusive to you, don’t be afraid to speak up. They might not be ready to hear it, but it also might be just the right time to change their life).

Unfortunately, as our boss is the head of the company, none of us know what else we can do besides quit when we can. Or, in my case, take the leave that was handed to me. I did start out saying I think I’m in the middle of a nervous breakdown. The 9th Circle of Hell immediate crisis hasn’t resolved. My boss will still be an asshole when I return, but maybe – while I know whatever comes of this won’t “fix” the situation – just maybe the financial cost of unpaid leave is worth it right now. I can apply for some new jobs, handle just one abusive situation at a time and maybe try to recoup some mental fortitude.

I used to be the girl who could get the call that a different group home (one that is still open, of course, because fuck the 9th Circle of Hell) had broken bones and I had to fly down for a meeting at the end of the week right before my thesis defense and fight to get my family member out of that place. I used to be so good at wearing my zombie mask that I could literally earn a graduate degree in the intervening days without showing my inner turmoil. I don’t know what happened in this recent abuse case that made it the straw that broke the camel’s back, but maybe I can locate my lost mask and put it back on in the next few weeks.

And, in case I can’t affix the mask again – even with glue – cross your fingers that I can find a new job in my current city during that time. (Yes, I will try to find a job in my current city though that somehow means I have to figure out how to write professional, adult-sounding applications for a job in a place that isn’t Hell while my feet are located physically in the chaos vortex of my childhood.) My “not FMLA” begins soon, and much of it will be spent in my literal Hell. Not only do I really not want to start over on waiting lists to get my family member services in a different state than the 9th Circle of Hell, I actually just want to stay in this city despite my best attempts not to get attached.  Send whatever good wishes you can that I can somehow pull that off.

**I also showed his email rant to a management coach I’d once worked with and my therapist and asked how best to handle the situation. Both simply just said, “find a new job.” My therapist also quipped a suggestion that she could give me a few brochures for some group classes that might help him to slip under his door after I finally left. All excellent advice, but not immediately helpful for how to survive until I do…

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.


14 thoughts on “Absent without (Family Medical) Leave

  1. When I asked my former employer, who I’d never gone over my PTO time with, if it was okay for me to take a long weekend to go have a final service for my father, who lost a battle with cancer, I was asked, “This is the last trip up there right?” Implying that my previous several trips to be with my dying father had obviously inconvenienced them. The good news was it was what I needed to hear to plan a departure. The bad news, I fell so ill that never happened. The bough does break eventually. I’m not trying to be bossy or tell you what to do, I’m just being a mother-hen, and that’s all I promise. Hoping this frustration energy you have can be channeled into finding a job where the boss isn’t a narcissistic ego-maniac. Take good care.🌸

    Liked by 1 person

  2. *hugs*
    I was called 7 tines on the day of my uncle’s funeral by a PRIEST because she was having trouble running the office without me, siting the same failed procedures I’d mentioned time and again. This was my clue to pack it in and leave. Good bosses are hard to come by. So few actually “get” that they need to be a team member. Fortunately, my contract was over and I was doing the parish a “favor” by staying until they filled the spot. I met with the church board and head priest upon my return to work to give them my recommendations for restructuring the office and staff (i used to “fix” churches) , and hand in a letter of complaint and three weeks notice. When they read the letter, I was given a severance package worth three month’s pay and benefits, as well as an apology.
    Working with mental and physical illness is HARD as hell and you are a WARRIOR for doing it in such a toxic situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So sorry for your stress and Hell. You’re so deserving of understanding and compassion. We offer it to you. Have you checked your state human services laws? Our state has a 25-person FMLA rule that trumps federal 50-employee minimum. Also, maybe you have off-site employees or seasonal workers that push you over the employee minimum? Your perseverance is inspiring.


  4. It is a very sorry state of affair indeed, and I think your boss is a very unscrupulous in what is essentially a practice of considering his employees as tools instead of people. As part of looking after his company, he should also look after the employees of his companies and pay attention to their needs! Perhaps he is the person that is being “unprofessional”. Best wishes to you!

    Liked by 1 person

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