Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's Mandatory. . .

Dr. Shrinker, source of my councilor's nickname.

In the days and weeks following my mother's death, I was not allowed a single day off from work. It was graduation week, followed two weeks later by Reunion week and all the preparation required for that. Meanwhile, I was falling apart in more ways than one.

I kept begging for time off, and my boss kept saying, "No, you need to be in a busy people environment," her code phrase for "No way, it's too busy here."

People were asking me questions about my mother's memorial service and I had no answers to give them. With no help in the planning from the rest of my family and no free time during the week to make the arrangements, nothing was happening. People at work were saying behind my back "Why doesn't Doug take some time off?" Well, I wasn't being allowed to, even though college policy gave me three bereavement days, and I had plenty of vacation time racked up.

We had to lay my mother's ashes to rest on Memorial Day because that was the only day I could get off.

The next day, I was a basket case. Unfit for duty in any sense of the word. I had been drinking, of course, and I simply could not pull myself together. I tried to arrange for the day off. To make a long story short, I was called into work anyway.

Where it became obvious to everyone what I'd known all along: I had no business being there that day and needed some time off.

I was called into my boss's office. The college lawyer was waiting for me there. I was actually in tears. He took one look at me and ordered me into Mandatory Counseling. I was given a list of names and numbers to call. All I wanted was some time off to make the arrangements for my mother's service. Instead, I was having a nervous breakdown aided and abetted by the college and alcohol.

I was not opposed to the concept of counseling, but the word "Mandatory" really got under my skin. The college is not my damn big brother, and anyway I viewed the college's treatment of me as part of the problem.

The next day I came to work as normal, but met a friend in the walkway. I told her my predicament and she insisted that I had the right to time off and they needed to give it to me.

I decided to take it. I emailed my boss (who was out) and told her that I was going to use the day to go to Augusta to make the final arrangements for the service.

This I did. And it was the first day of relief in a month's time. Making the arrangements final was a big step.

I did not follow through on the counseling order. I considered letting them fire me. I was not going to let them meddle in my personal life.

One day I was called back into my boss's office. This was the terrible row that was the catalyst for all that the stress and pressure and grief and despair and the effects of the drinking had wrought on me. I left early and made the call to Dr. Shrinker from home. The next day I was in hospital.

-- Freder.

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