Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"reasonable accommodations"

I am considering asking for some "accommodations" at work and I can't tell you how weird/embarrassed/awkward that makes me feel.

I'm a person who insists upon and enjoys a very DIY life, who takes pride in not needing help (to a fault). I have a habit of trying to be very low-maintenance...I don't like to be "that person" who needs pansy shit like painkillers or forklifts. I will push through the pain and I will lift the world onto my shoulders with my own two hands (lifting with my legs, not with my back thank you) if it kills me. In other words I'm a Navy Seal in a tiny woman's body...and I hate to admit when I can't do something for myself and if I can't do it for myself then it's almost not worth doing. Someone should warn my stepchildren NOW that I'm going to be a massive pain in their asses when I'm 85 and they try to take my drivers license away.

At my office, I share an office with two other people. Herein lies the problem, truly. One office mate needs the overhead fluorescent light on at all times. Additionally, there are phones ringing, people coming in and out, meetings at people's desks, and conference calls happening throughout the day. And...there's a little emergency manufacturing that goes on in the office.

Aside from the emergency manufacturing, there's not really anything unreasonable happening here, it's just the things people do in the natural course of a business day. I am not annoyed with my office mate that needs the light on, I mean she needs to be able to see, right? People make phone calls, that's not strange.

None of it is strange but all of it is creating a stressful workspace for me. If I had to pick a "worst" I would say the overhead fluorescent light, which has always been something I can't tolerate. I actually can't tolerate overhead light of any kind for very long. A while ago, I actually went upstairs and got my office mate a desk light (which sounds like a dick thing to do but I assure you in context it made sense...she had noticed that she's the only one that turns the light on and felt badly that she was bothering us so I had asked her if she thought a desk light would be helpful, because I don't expect everybody else to love working in the dark). But she hardly ever used it and the fluorescents would end up on anyway. So I ended up with it back on my desk because at least then I can create some contrast between the overhead light and my desk so my soul doesn't deteriorate quite so quickly.

I've been here nearly a year and I have tried to make the office work for me. We tried problem-solving the light issue...I brought headphones so that I can listen to music instead of other people...but truly it's often inadequate to drown out the sounds. I also can't drown out the sights. 

I'm thinking of asking if I can simply move my work space. I don't know where to though, because there's not a lot of space here. I don't even care if they stick me in a closet, I just need it dark and quiet.

I'm thinking about how to ask...and thinking that this is a swell thing to talk over with my therapist this week. I also need to think over how to react effectively if I meet with a little resistance...as in not crying in humiliation, since I hate asking for help and it embarrasses me to think about asking.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A demonstration of great mental effort

It was a simple phone call and a reasonable request. I had a meeting scheduled for 11am this morning at a local coffee shop. The person I was supposed to meet called to say that she needed to reschedule, that the transmission on her car had gone out and tomorrow would be better. Public transportation isn't an option here. Not a problem...totally reasonable. We rescheduled for 1pm tomorrow.

I immediately pulled my calendar out of my bag, crossed off today's appointment, and wrote it in again for tomorrow at the correct time. That's only the first layer, however. Because for me, just remembering to open my calendar takes a certain amount of mental effort. Schedule changes can be extremely anxiety provoking. Anything out of the norm on my calendar carries a high risk of being forgotten. I know this well, and as such, I rely on vigilance. Medication can keep me more even and energized, less anxious and overwhelmed so that I'm more likely to open that calendar, but it doesn't make me lift the cover and look inside.

I set this original appointment on Thursday of last week and I spent the entire weekend working to remind myself to make sure I both checked my calendar and didn't miss my 11am meeting. I'm grateful for the ability to remind myself to remind myself but it sure is a lot of work. And it's pressing a little red internal panic button over and over until the obligation is completed because that's the only way to remember.

Even if I was using an electronic calendar I worry that I would shut out or miss the sound of an alarm or reminder.

This is not ungrounded worry, it's a habit of worry acquired over years of forgetting, of having simple meetings feel like they are swirling around my body on bits of paper that swirl like feathers in a wind. It's the kind of worry that can make you narrow your world...generally my enthusiasm for novelty outweighs my fear of forgetting. And when I'm depressed I have sheer will to force myself over the next hedge. If living means showing up for things and meeting your obligations to others, then I clearly have an unsuppressable will to live, such that I will wade through with worry up to my ankles or knees or waist and just keep moving forward. I don't always enjoy it. But solitary confinement seems less appealing.

This time, the worry is extended into tomorrow. I don't enjoy that feeling, but it's an important meeting. Important to me anyway. I'll reach into the air over and over to grab that particular bit of paper and read it to myself, then release my grip on it and let it fly away as I need my hand to grab another bit and read the reminder etched upon it.