Once again I sit here finding it hard to write. I figure that the reason that I don't want to write what I'm going to is because in doing so it'll make it more real. That's one thing this blog provides for me is a place where once I share a story it forces me to face the realities of it and deal with it. I'm not always too terribly keen on facing reality though and that is where I am today.
First of all, Thomas had therapy yesterday and that went reasonably well. It's a topic for a different post, though, because it was what I discovered AFTER therapy that completely broke my heart.
For Thomas and I there is something about riding together in a car alone that makes it (perhaps) easier to talk about things having to do with his illness or his personal life. It could be that I'm distracted with driving just enough that my tone of voice is even and I'm maybe not putting pressure on Thomas that he otherwise might feel if we were sitting across from each other in the living room having a talk. Whatever it is, I am thankful for the car rides, especially when they reveal what I learned yesterday.
Thomas is completely dreading my leaving for the conference. He is (understandably) terrified that he's going to have another episode similar to the one he had while I was in Seattle and he doesn't want to go through that again. I don't blame him one bit. I don't want him to have to go through that again. We're still picking up the pieces from that one. What he's wanting to do to remedy the situation while I'm gone is to take the time I'm gone off from work. Herein lies the problem. Twice lately he has asked his manager Tami to switch shifts so that he can be available for Airsoft wars. His manager doesn't know why he's switched shifts but he's still done it nonetheless. Also, he requested time off for a lengthy family vacation coming up the second full week of April and that has been approved. We will come home on the 14th and then on the 16th I will leave for New Jersey for four days. He and I both feel like he's pushing his luck as far as trying to get even more time off because of all of the flexibility his job has afforded him lately. Going in and asking for another 4 days off doesn't seem like a good idea.
From that conversation came this:
Apparently back in November or December (Thomas doesn't remember exactly when) he left work early because of anxiety. His store manager, Tami, was the manager on duty that night and she told Thomas that because he did that that he was on probation and that the next time he left work early he would be fired.
Since then, Thomas has lived under a blanket of fear about leaving work early because he doesn't want to lose his job. Who can blame him? It appears to me, though, that the managers on lower rungs of the ladder have kept Thomas's secret about leaving early other times since then because nothing more was said to Thomas about being fired. I am so thankful for those managers who understand Thomas and his needs but it's just a matter of time before Tami gets wind of what's going on and she fires Thomas.
My heart breaks for Thomas. This is just so unfair to him that his job security is threatened because he has schizophrenia and he suffers from episodes that make it impossible to stay at work. I am also angry because I want them to understand that he suffers a great deal and chances are someone there isn't going to put up with him leaving again sometime and they are going to fire him!
Thomas and I sat in the car on the street outside our house and talked about this some more. I asked him why he hadn't told me this at the time that it happened and he told me that he didn't want to stress me out. He's sweet for wanting that but it just can't be that way! He has to tell me EVERYTHING that he deals with so that I can help him get through them. I told him that and I also told him that this illness is a nasty one and that no one should have to cope with it alone. I told him that I was here to walk this world with him and that I was here to fight for him wherever and whenever need be. We talked about solutions to this problem of potentially being fired and we came up with the same one we had done before; we are going to go in and talk to Tami and reveal the extent of his illness and hopefully garner some understanding and flexibility from her.
Oh God, it's time for "the talk."
Thomas and I have done this together before back when he had a different manager. We called a meeting and sat down with him and told him everything and after that things changed for the better, for the most part, for Thomas at work. I can only hope that the same thing will happen this time.
The thing that gets me, though, is this:
Thomas came to his job through a program called Opportunities Unlimited which is a program connected with the state of Idaho where they help place people with disabilities in jobs in the community. He came to the job with the label of "disabled" attached to him and I assume the powers that be at his job understood that he would have special needs as a result. Up until Tami took the helm, things seemed to go along smoothly for Thomas. But here we are now, back at square one, and something needs to be done. That something is "the talk" with Tami and frankly I am scared to death to have that conversation. Let's face it, the general public hears the word "schizophrenia" and they are instantly scared and envisioning violent acts perpetrated by an unpredictable "insane" person. I have no idea how Tami is going to receive this news and because of that I am so nervous!
So, Thomas is going to make an appointment to sit down with Tami and he and I will go together and enlighten her and see if we can get some understanding and flexibility. I am also going to contact Opportunities Unlimited and see if they can help us because having them there will unequivocally show that Thomas lives with a disability that needs to be considered when he's on the job. I will let you all know how that goes for us. I expect that we'll have to have that meeting fairly soon since my trip to the conference is coming up fast.
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