Please Leave Quietly (Originally published 11/14/12)

“It’s alright
There comes a time
Got no patience
To search for peace of mind”
– Alice in Chains, “No Excuses”

            When my depression was at its worst I would stop going to work.  I wrote in the second blog entry how I would call in sick and say that I had a recurring physical ailment, usually related to ulcerative colitis, since I had already had a couple of bouts with it.  This would allow me to take a couple of days off.  This past March I started missing an inordinate amount of days, even by my standards.  It got so bad that I had to admit my depression to the principal and seek therapy.  Unfortunately, I was replaced.  The school hired another teacher to teach my classes while I became a full time sub and got paid per diem.  After Memorial Day the school president informed me that my services as a sub were no longer needed.  The school would pay me what they still owed me and I applied for short-term disability for a couple of weeks of work.  The rest of the time I was going to have to take unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.  The real problem was that my paychecks for the summer wouldn’t be enough to pay my bills or my mortgage.  Thus began the Summer of Ramen at my house.  I really couldn’t afford much else.  My cell phone was turned off twice and my FiOS service once.  Luckily, one friend with whom I grew up was kind enough to lend me money when I needed it and pay him back at the end of the summer.

            When I went back to work in September, I almost immediately started to fall into the same pattern.  I had been off my meds for almost a month and a half, so my situation had worsened.  I also developed a severe case of psoriasis, so now I had other reasons to call in sick.  By early October I was almost out of sick days already and it was becoming obvious I needed help so I went to my therapist and got set to go to Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital and start the partial program.  I then called my principal to see what would happen at work.  He told me he had to speak to the school president and get back to me.

            The Friday before Columbus Day weekend he called me back with two options: I could use the rest of my sick days and time left under the Family Medical Leave Act and then I would stop getting paid and lose my benefits or I could resign my position and keep my benefits until the end of October and receive $8000 severance pay.  I had until the following Wednesday to decide.  Needless to say this added to the stress and depression since I had neither the time nor faculties to make the decision properly.  I didn’t have the luxury of being comfortable with my choice.  Either way I was out of a job I had been in for fifteen years.  Since my decision-making skills were not t their keenest and I didn’t know what else to do, I took the severance package and resigned.  I felt that there could have been a way for me to keep my job, but I just wanted to stay hidden under the covers and not deal with it.  Was there a better option?  Probably.  Did I screw myself?  Definitely.  But at the same time I felt angry and betrayed by a place I had devoted myself to.

            I did have one moment of vindication and that came during my conversation with the school president.  I was supposed to call him to discuss the details of my severance package.  I told him I would call between 3:30pm and 4:00pm, as soon as I got home from the program.  I called at 3:45 and was immediately told it was a bad time.  He was on his way out the door and could he call me back later that evening.  I was mildly annoyed, but I agreed.  He called me early in the evening.  He explained to me that the severance would be broken up over several pay periods.  I asked how many checks and how much would they be.  Well, he just didn’t have that information, even though he was calling me for that exact reason.  Also his tone changed.  He wanted to get off the phone, so I stayed as cordial as possible and made him deal with the crazy guy, no matter how uncomfortable it made him.  If we had been standing in the same room, he would have been slowly backing away as if crazy was contagious.  If he couldn’t be professional and have the right information when he promised it, I at least was going to make him be civil.  That was my last conversation with him.

            The rest of the faculty was never told that I resigned or why, only that I was taking medical leave.  The president not only didn’t want to deal with my mental condition, he didn’t even want anyone to know I was gone for good.  I was being pushed out through a side door into oblivion.  The less anyone knew, the better he felt.  As for my co-workers, I hope they get to read this and know why I’m not there.  In the meantime I’m still deciding between trying to claim disability or unemployment, which I know the school will try to block.  At some point I’m also going to have to find another job.  It’s just a reminder that sanity isn’t stress free, but I can at least make a more informed opinion.

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