I am on leave from work because of depression and pain. I wasn’t able to function when I was there and my productivity showed it and my too often bad days, made for too many sick days.
However, when I was there I masked the pain and the fatigue like a Master Class chronic ill person. Because this is a skill I have indeed Mastered. Just like I hide my depression with humor. And I worked at a good office, but I got the impression quickly that a few of them didn’t ‘get it’.
One of the staff told me when I had come in ‘So nice of you to show today’. And it hit me hard. She had been saying little jibes at me for a while. And I think she thinks it is funny. But it isn’t funny to be pushing through the pain, fatigue and depression to get to work and then push through even harder to just try and function and have some belittle your efforts thinking when you miss work you are just having fun eating bonbons or something.
We encounter this ‘lazy’ stigma in many places but work is certainly one of them. They have no idea how much I beat myself up over missing work. They wouldn’t need the snide comments if they did. I do it to myself quite well, thank you. I feel useless, worthless and nonproductive and nonfunctional. I feel like I am failing, as a person. Every person that says something like that drives it home that I should be ashamed. I am a grown ass woman and I should work. Just push through the pain harder.
I am not fond of her for those statements but it is expected. They don’t see me at my worst. And at my trying to get through the day I mask my pain. They are clueless to my existence. But what they do know is that someone has to cover my shift. And that is problematic. If someone doesn’t cover they are short. If they are short customers are angry. If someone there is covering my shift, they are not doing their job. And this makes them angry. And that anger is projected at me. And it comes out in the form of stigma. Nice for you to show up today. Nice to see you in. I wish I could remember the other things she said that caught me off guard and made me feel horrible but I can’t because my memory is crap. In my old office, there were plenty. It was full of stigma on the boss’s part. I remember too many of those things. Things that quite damaged my self-worth to be honest. But it isn’t about that sort of deeper, darker stigma. This is about people who think you are not in as much pain as you say, you are not depressed at all… you are lazy, and taking advantage of people and the system.
I tend to absorb it like a sponge and not respond. Which isn’t good. I think of that office years ago and if I had just stood up and stopped the stigma by explaining the discrimination that was going on to her, to her boss and to HR. Well, things would have been different. But even with one person, or more likely more, I just take it. I wonder what I would say if I were more assertive.
Maybe I would say, “You think you know but you do not. You know nothing of pain. Behind closed doors and what a real high-intensity pain day looks like. You are clueless. The pain I feel right now? You cannot see it, know it or understand it. I have to function through it somehow. You just have to work with no impediments. My brain impedes me inch by inch. And after this day, I will need a day to recover from it. That is nothing compared to a bad day. You think you know me. But you can’t because you know nothing about pain that endures forever. Make judgments when you do and not before then. Because when you come to the pain club, then you get the game.”
It is a hurtful one. Mostly I believe it is hurtful because we Strive so much, but get nowhere for our efforts. And because we suffer the consequences of any effort, but no one sees the consequences. Not to mention we feel intense guilt for not being as we once were. Not able to do the things we want to be able to do. We know our limitations and at times it grates on us we cannot meet the expectations of ourselves, society and others. We suffer a great deal when we push ourselves beyond our limits, trying to succeed. Such horrible pain. And it only makes things significantly worse.