Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Diabetes Detour... Where am I, again?

One of life's many reminders that
 I am not alone, with diabetes.
"Who are you?," I asked, as strange and odd faces peered over me, picked me up and placed me on a stretcher. "What am I doing here?"

No one answered.

The world felt really odd, and weird. My head, compressed and pained, while my vision was at odds with my mind... as if I had put on a pair of someone's prescription glasses many times more powerful than my own vision, and making everything in sight oddly concave.

"She keeps saying that!" said the voice of a red headed woman with too much eye make up, in an exasperated tone, and incredulous that I could not remember who any of them were. Funny, I thought I'd only asked once. The attention was unnerving, and frightening... and their annoyance was oddly embarrassing. I really wanted to get out of there, and go home... If only I could of remembered where home was.

On October 26th, 2007, I had a massive seizure at my desk, at work... Or so they tell me. I can't remember when it started, or what provoked it... I can't remember much of anything about it, or that day, for that matter.

All I can remember is laying in a hospital bed, in a medical gown and no underwear, under the gaze of my former Human Resource Manager, and trying hard not to look like a woman who's not wearing a bra. He was a brutish man, with a hot temper, and little human resource education. It's the way of the world in some of these up and coming companies. You get to be buddy-buddy with the head honchos, join the good ol' boys club, and then it doesn't matter if you have any qualifications for a job. His way of qualifications was a 6 month stint as temporary HR manager back in 1984. (Yes, you can laugh out loud.)

... And so it was that a company who sold out to a much bigger company, coincided with a production foreman (wise in the ways of verbally intimidating employees) being made into an HR Manager (a position which requires extreme diplomacy), and me... developing extremely debilitating, and uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, with no one knowing what it was, at the time.

It was a perfect storm, really.

They needed to cut down on employees... and I got sick. I was a good target. We all knew they were going to cut SOMEONE. They kept having all those 'behind closed doors' meetings. And no one knew what I had at the time, so I got to be made to look like a mediocre employee who just wanted to play hooky and not show up to work. A great way to cut staff (and I made quite a bit of money, in my position, so it was quite the savings for them, I am sure). They had already tried to intimidate me... by demoting me, claiming I was unorganized, and had made many mistakes. (It didn't matter that, when I asked, they had absolutely no examples to provide to back up their assertions, other than my illness related absences, which had been closely monitored by my doctor... nor that a few months earlier, they had given me perfect praise... nor that my previous review had been above excellent.) They wanted to break ME as a person, and get me to quit. They wanted to treat ME as worthlessly as another unskilled production employee.

So, I had a seizure. It was on a Friday, and I spent a really ill weekend at the hospital. Went home on a Sunday, with a very chewed up tongue, migraines and dizziness issues... And when the HR Manager demanded I be at work on Monday -- but couldn't do so, for obvious reasons -- he fired me. The company NEVER contested my claims for unemployment insurance; they never even showed up for the hearing.

I can't tell you... HOW MUCH I have blamed myself over the years. How much I have felt like a worthless person who just couldn't keep running as hard as she could, who couldn't just grin, and bear it. Still, to this day, I sometimes have many nightmares... sometimes reoccurring dreams where someone calls me, 'forgives me,' and just gives me back my job. I loved my job. I loved making a difference. I loved making people smile with my organizational skills, and my programming skills, and my language interpreting skills. I loved interviewing new hires, and giving new employee orientations, and speaking to big audiences... I loved educating, and writing, and speaking, and everything I did. I had been promoted to a better position within 4 months of hire, and given hefty salary raises for my skills. I had dreams of further certifications, promotions, and continuous education degrees. I LOVED MY JOB. I loved my life. 

For many years I felt like I lost my soul on that day. I lost my soul, and I let myself go. I let myself go, and felt like I died. Long, lost, and forgotten... someone who forever had ruined her life. I felt great shame, and hurt. Great anger.

Diabetes came into my life with a BIG bang, and like a tsunami... washed up many parts of my life with it. Great post traumatic stress took over, and made me shy away from new jobs, job situations, and new friendships. Finding a job, a permanent one, and keeping it... for the last 5 years has been HARD. I wanted to cry and wallow in self pity.

Diabetes is HARD. And it's often embarrassing. And people JUDGE you. They do. People DON'T understand. People think their lives are textbook examples for how other people's lives need to be. They judge you, and they often try to bring you down.

But you get up. You get up, and pick up the pieces of you... as many times as you need to... and you keep going.

I now work minimum wage. I don't do anything near as glamorous as I once did. I have two jobs. I work unloading trucks, and at a fast food place. I don't even have a car. I walk long and far... just to make minimum wage. But I am... OKAY. I'm OKAY, and I am even happy, sometimes. Heck, I'd say most of the time.

My bosses don't really get diabetes... but they LISTEN,  and they try to understand, and try to help me be safe at work, and make concessions. My coworkers LISTEN, and they care... My bosses let me be ME, with diabetes. They let me be ME, in spite of diabetes. Sharing with coworkers the other day, and even opening up about my traumatic past, really made realize... that it's OKAY. That I can move on. THAT I AM SAFE.

Sometimes, some of those people I used to work with at the Human Resource job, show up for lunch at the fast food place. They seem to look down upon me with a certain pity in their eyes, or with embarrassment that I am doing a fast food job, and I just smile kindly back to them. I smile because I'm happy, and they don't understand my journey... and I hope they NEVER have to.

I smile... because though I loved, and miss my job... happiness and freedom are not found in jobs, nor what people think of us. They are found in those 5 year detours in the desert... when all you have is YOURSELF.

(... And, ironically, the original founder and owner of the company passed away, not long ago, of type 2 diabetes complications. I may have lost my job, money, insurance, etc... but I guess at least I still have my life... and boy am I LIVING it.) 


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