sarasvati: Itsuki, from Fatal Frame 2 (thoughtful)
Ugh, feeling unhappily gross today. It's foggy outside and I'm stuffed up like crazy, with a rough throat to boot. Not a pleasant day. I should be doing all sorts of productive things, even while I'm sick. There are books that need reading and reviewing, I have I don't know how much writing that I need to catch up on, or I could even be wild and crazy and wash some dishes!

But I'm not. I'm sitting on my butt playing Persona 3 (FES, because I recently acquired it in a trade), and maybe later I'll do some knitting while watching reruns of That 70s Show, but beyond that, I don't feel like doing a damn thing today.

Especially not important lifey stuff like going to the gym or getting groceries. That stuff can wait until tomorrow, after I've had a day of rest and tea.

It's funny, but Rei and I sometimes wonder why Cass does so much crazy stuff in her life. (I'm going somewhere related with this, so bear with me.) This past weekend, she got a grand total of 8 hours of sleep over 3 days, because she worked and went to a master screenwriter's workshop. This is not abnormal for her. She often does stuff like this, like pulling double shifts and then going out for some social drinking with friends, shorting herself of sleep to do so. Sometimes it gets to be too much and she'll take a bit of a social hiatus to compensate, but she's nearly always doing a thousand and one things, and we wonder sometimes how she manages to do it.

Then we remember. She, like Rei and I, are in the "prime of our lives" stage of things. We're at the age where we are supposed to be able to do that sort of thing to ourselves and not suffer much for it beyond needing a really good night of sleep once in a while. But because we have chronic illnesses to deal with, we can just barely handle having jobs and a few hobbies that aren't very physically taxing.

Makes me wonder what we could do if we were in really good health. If I lost weight and didn't have to worry about my heart and lungs going screwy and could get over the severe social anxiety. If Rei's workplace would give him a regular schedule so he could control his IBS, or if his social axiety stopped being so much of a problem too.. We could rule the world!

Okay, maybe not rule the world. But we could probably do so much more than we're doing right now, so much that people our age take for granted. We could have a massive cleaning blitz of the apartment, so we could pack things up and have them all ready for when we move again. We could do yoga the way we've been talking about for months. We could spend entire days outside without worrying about whether we're going to be in so much pain that we can't move.

We could pull all-nighters and write, or just hang around and play video games.

For so long, I didn't really think of my life as abnormal. Sure, I have some physical limitations, health issues I need to worrty about, social and mental issues that make some things more difficult, but I figured heck, this is what most people are like, right? My life isn't that different from Joe Random's life.

Then I really take a look at the most 'normal' person I know, and I really begin to understand just how much I can't do because of my health, and how much Rei can't do because of his.

Hell, doing a 24-hour amateur acting bit last year was a big thing for me, and I didn't even go through as much as some others in the group. I slept late the day that it started because I knew I'd be up late and wouldn't get much sleep. I spent the day not doing too much, to conserve energy. I slept for 5 or 6 hours that night, then was on the move all the next day until the evening, rehearsing and dancing and singing and then performing in front of a bunch of strangers.

(It's easier than you'd think for me to be able to act, in spite of social anxiety, because I'm good at getting in character. I become someone who's not me anymore. Let nobody tell you that RP sessions don't do anything for you!)

Most of the other people in the group had been going for a full day on the first day, as they had another performance they had to act in. Then they get little sleep that night, and are on the go all the next day too. I couldn't do that. I'd be tired and cranky and my lungs would be twitchy and I wouldn't even be able to give myself any caffeine because of the risk to my heart.

I didn't think about it much before now, but I got off pretty easy on that, even though it was hard. I couldn't do what the healthy people did. I know I couldn't.

It's not because I'm lazy. It has something to do with my weight, because my weight is probably aggravating my lung and heart problems. But being fat and lazy isn't the ultimate problem in me, though I'll bet that's what a lot of people see. I have conditions that prevent me from leading the life that others my age live.

Right now, I don't feel like I'm missing a hell of a lot. It's not like I'd do what Cass does, booking up almost every spare minute of my timeand then crashing when it all becomes too much. But I wonder what I could be doing if I was fully healthy, the way I'm supposed to be at this stage of my life. What might I have discovered that I love, but haven't discovered it now because I know I couldn't handle the experience? What might I have done that could make people go, "Hey, that's really cool and I wish I could do it"? Would I be tanned from being out in the sun and the wind more? Would I wear different clothes? Would I read less?

I wish I knew what I was missing. I wish I knew how much of what I'm not doing is something I'd actually do if I had the chance or the ability. Maybe I'm missing nothing at all. Maybe everything. I don't know, because I'm always sick and have to consider carefully just about everything I do that involves physical activity and the time of the day. (Getting up early makes my lungs twitchy and stands a good chance of screwing my gut up in a painful way.)

I guess I also wish there was a point to this entry other than just me ranting about what I can't change yet, or can't change ever.
sarasvati: (bite me)
Some of you may know that last September, I lost my job. It was a sudden loss. Sudden enough that I saw my boss that very morning and he said nothing except to find out if I would be home at a certain time that day. I told him I'd be out, and wouldn't you know, that's when he called me to tell me I no longer had a job because the company shut down.

Their clients got an hour's notice until the service was terminated.

The next thing we heard was that the company would not be able to pay us for the time worked between the last pay period and the closing of the company, nor would they be able to pay us any banked vacation pay.

Rumours started spreading about how they were trying to reverse the deposit of the pay from the previous pay period, too.

Some of us went to the Labour Board and found out that indeed this was bullshit, and that they had to pay us for not only the time we worked and our vacation pay, but also 2-4 weeks of pay-in-lieu since they gave us no notice of our jobs being gone. For me, this amounted to around $1300, give or take. There were some exceptions to that rule, of course, like the company having to close because the workplace burned down or something, but it was ruled that this case was not an exception and they would have to pay.

Especially because I have a quote from the company's co-owner that basically amounted to, "Yeah, this wasn't really sudden at all, and we sorta saw it coming since the previous November."

Then came the delays. First they hoped to get us our money by the end of 2009, then hopefully between January and March of 2010, then maybe by June they might have it.

They tried to sell off all of their assets to get us what we were owed, apparently. They tried to sell the part of the company that acted as an answering service to B&Bs across the US. Another company was actually interested, so they were given control of the project on a 3-month trial period. If they didn't feel it was worth keeping up with, then they didn't have to pay a cent and everyone would go their merry way.

Unsurprisingly, since all the B&Bs got an hour notice of service termination, very few of them decided to bother staying on. I think 10 out of the 150 inns actually stuck it out, and the new company rightly decided that there was just no profit in that. No money came from them.

This could have been solved by the owners declaring bankruptcy. Not only would that take care of the employee debt, but also their debt to Revenue Canada, since they were reportedly quite behind on their payroll taxes, too.

But bankruptcy would have prevented the company's owner from starting up a new company in her name. Which is what she did.

Today I got a letter in the mail from her, saying that despite her "best efforts", no, we weren't getting paid a cent after all this. She said her biggest mistake was not closing the company down when she first saw the problems, but that we should all take comfort in knowing that if she'd done the right thing then, we wouldn't have had 3-4 extra months of employment from her when he did.

Not that it mattered to me, since I was on stress leave for 3 out of those 4 months anyway... But I kid you not; that's what she said in her letter. Thatwe should be grateful that she screwed up and that we weren't out of work sooner.

What I want is to find a labour lawyer to look at this case. I know that the company was incorporated, which acts as a sort of insurance for companies. An incorporated company is a separate entity from the owners, and so if it no longer exists, neither do its debts. However, incorporation only protects again so many contingencies, and I want to know if this is a case where they're protected or not. If the company still owed money to Revenue Canada that had to be paid before the employees got their money, then there's a chance that their incorporation isn't going to protect them here.

In which case, I want to sue them for all they're worth. For theft and for fraud and for health and emotional damages.

There are labour lawyers in the city. The big problem is that I don't know if any of them do free consultations, and even if any do, I'll then have the problem of convincing them to work only for a percentage of what I actually get as a result of the lawsuit. But if I can't, then I'm basically SOL and the ex-boss wins, gets away with everything. She won't have to pay a cent of what she owes us because she was an idiot and can't manage a business properly.

I'll email some lawyers tonight, see if any are willing to at least give me a free consultation. If it turns out that I may have a case but none are willing to work with me on fees, maybe just the threat of being sued might make the ex-bosses cough up the money we're owed. Since I don't have a job and can barely afford bread right now, I know I can't afford lawyer fees.

But we'll see. One step at a time.

And right now, my step is into the bathroom. Again. This issue has stressed me into having my second gut attack of the day, and I don't see it letting up soon.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
Through [personal profile] torachan, I came across this post by [personal profile] kaz, on the subject of disability and the curing of disability and how that relates to identity.

Reading it helped to give form to a lot of thoughts that I've been struggling to deal with for a while now.

I don't consider myself disabled. I consider myself challenged. I have problems, mental and physical that require some readjustments to my life, and even though they may make things difficult for me, they do not directly prevent me from doing anything. I can't, in all good conscience, consider them disabling, as I feel that comparing my problems with, say, the problems of somebody who requires a wheelchair to get around or who suffers from chronic pain is just doing them a disservice. Thus, I call my problems my challenges rather than my disabilities.

Moving on...

I've spoken to people, friends and family, about these problems before, and nearly always, the topic comes around to how they can be fixed. Losing weight to hep me breathe and sleep better, which will possibly take away pain and comprehension issues. Wouldn't it be great if there was some sort of quick fix to my problems?

The thing is, I'm not sure it would be so great. And I feel like a terrible person for thinking so. I feel that by not being enthusiastic about wanting to be rid of any issues I may have, I'm a bad person for clinging to them, like I'm somebody who wants problems just so that I can have something to complain about. If I don't want to be perfectly healthy in all ways and forms, then I'm malingering, I'm trying to be special, I'm just looking for sympathy and attention.

That feeling is worse sometimes than anything that my issues make me go through.

I'm not 100% sure that if some miracle cure was offered to me, something that could fix my lungs and heart and my eyes and my brain and all the senses connected to it, I'm not sure I'd take it. And people treat you like you're stupid and attention-whoring for it, but here's the thing: my problems are a part of me. I may struggle with them, but for the most part, they're a part of my life and I've learned to deal with most of them enough that I can lead a pretty normal life without having to resort to some drastic miracle cure thing.

I've worn glasses all of my life. I can't comprehend what it's like to see clearly without something to help. I take my glasses off at night, and in the morning I put them back on. It's part of my routine, it's something I've adjusted to just fine, and it's a hassle some people wouldn't want to deal with, but to me, putting on my glasses is no different than pouring myself a cup of water.

One night, a long time ago, something wonky happened that I can't explain. My glasses were off as I was about to go to bed, and so the world had returned to its mass of fuzzy blobs and blurs of pseudo-colour. Then I looked at the clock on the bedside table, one that was 6 feet away from me, and I could see the display clearly. No blurriness around the lights making up the numbers, nothing of the sort. Something that shouldn't be able to happen.

I panicked. I felt my face for my glasses to confirm that they were off, multiple times. I looked around the room at other things to see if they were blurry too, and how blurry they were. My eyesight had, for a brief period, seemed to recovera significant amount, and it scared me. Not because I love having to wear glasses and think they make me special, but because seeing anything clearly when my glasses weren't on my face was not something I did!

Imagine someone who's badly agorophobic and stays inside all day, working from home and paying the bills and doing all that everyday stuff that people do. Now imagine one day this person feels absolutely no fear at going outside. They're not about to burst into song and go gallivanting around the local nature park, no matter what happy-go-lucky media portrayals would like you to believe. They're going to sit inside and stare at the outside and wonder why this is happened now, all of a sudden, and what it means, and how they're going to cope with it because it's not normal for them.

Just the same sort of reaction somebody might have if they had never exhibited a fear of the outdoors and then suddenly found themselves unable to leave the house one morning.

Long-term problems mean readjustments, shifting things in life so that life can go on in spite of the problems that exist. Having those problems suddenly lifted requires as much adjustment as suddenly having those problems descend upon you. Your life needs restructuring again. The identity that you built for yourself around your problems (the things you deal with every day, remember, and so are no more weird to incorporate into an identity than enjoying going for a run every morning or knowing you like to drink coffee) suddenly doesn't apply, and you need to re-examine yourself and form a new identity around your lack of problems.

And people expect you to be grateful for this. Sure, you may be able to get up and walk to the corner store instead of using a wheelchair, or you may now be able to digest food indescrimately instead of having to have a specialized diet, but there are still changes that need adjusting to, and aspects of your old life are going to creep back in. How many times have new amputees tried to use the limb that's no longer there? How many ex-amputees who had arms grown back by medical science (or some such thing) leave that limb unused or favoured for the very same reasons?

Your life still changes, no matter what the cause of change is. It's hard to deal with. Change is hard for everybody, whether abled or challenged or disabled. Expecting people to be happy about a major life adjustment is selfish. You're asking them to be happy that they have to struggle to restructure themselves because they're not longer an awkward inconvenience, they're "normal again."

Identity is also about how people see you as much as how you see yourself. It blows if people see you as "the disabled one" and treat you like crap for it, but at some point, the disability becomes a part of your identity. Losing it means you lose a piece of yourself.

I have a character that I RP with Rei sometimes. This character is blind, has been so almost from birth. He's happy. He's well-adjusted, loves his life, is in a loving and caring relationship. Rei once suggested that it would be awesome to come up with some way for Nathaniel to get his sight back, and then seemed annoyed and confused that I wasn't all for it. Nathaniel doesn't want his sight back. He's happy being blind. His life works well around it. It's a part of him, and he's okay with that. The thought of having to learn to rely on a sense he doesn't even remember ever having scares him quite a lot, because it's so alien to him. But in Rei's mind, it was a problem to be solved, an obstacle to be overcome.

It had been. Just not in the way that Rei, and a lot of other people, expect.

I think this mentality is at the heart of all the "fat wank," too. People who have been overweight for their entire lives have formed an identity for themselves that incorporates being fat. Lately, it's become a lot more acceptible to be proud of who one is, in spite of problems. "Accept me for who I am, problems and all, or else you're just being a dick." But the world is still telling them to be different, telling them they have a problem to be solved, telling them that part of their identity needs to go away. It's not too surprising that people get their knickers in a twist over it.

I don't think that enough people see things like this as something that can be part of an identity without connecting that to the thought that people just like to have something to bitch about. They can't see something not of the norm and think that it doesn't need fixing. "That poor girl needs a cane to walk," thinks the woman who doesn't even think about the glasses on her own face. "Her life must be so dreadful to have such problems. She'd be happier if she was normal."

What about my identity has been built around my problems? Let's take a tally of just some of them, shall we? I won't mention my reasons for them. I'll just list the adjustments I make, which have become itegral parts of myself.

1. I don't go outside on very cold and dry winter days unless I have to.
2. I don't drink coffee or energy drinks. I allow myself a cola if I'm at a restaurant. I allow myself tea at home.
3. I don't eat spicy foods because they don't agree with me. I also don't eat potato chips late at night, and am careful not to eat anything in the morning until I've fully woken up.
4. I prefer communicating online to talking face-to-face.
5. I watch movies and TV shows with the subtitles turned on.
6. I drink a variety of herbal teas.
7. I need to save a certain amount of money each month, which varies depending on what kind of job I have at the time.
8. I try to take a short walk every day, but sometimes I stay indoors instead.

Oh noes, such terrible things I have to do for myself! If I just posted that list of things I have to do in my life, people would wonder what point I'm trying to make, and act like it's no big deal. Why even mention it? But tell them that it's because of health or emotional problems, and the tone changes, and that list becomes a sinister one, listing all the restrictions I have to make and detailing, subtly, all the things I can't do because of my problems.

1. I don't go out much when it's cold and dry because my lungs spasm and I wheeze and cough and have to fight for breath.
2. I limit my caffeine intake because I've found that it's a trigger for my heart spasms that make it, for a few seconds, sometimes beat as fast as 200 beats per minute.
3. Those diet restrictions are because I have some sort of digestive disorder that requires unpleasant trips to the bathroom as well as pain.
4. Social anxiety, sensory problems primarily relating to hearing and speaking, shyness, awkwardness around people seeing my Tourette's make my twitchy, and trouble making eye contact makes me prefer distance communication to the other kind.
5. Hearing comprehension problems mean that turning subtitles on makes the movie easier to understand.
6. I've found some herbal teas that can treat a lot of my problems, from chronic sinus congestion to the pain and problems associated with that digestive disorder. They're a damn sight cheaper than meds, and sometimes more effective!
7. Money gets put aside so I can afford the meds I need to take. The amount varies depending on whether my job gives me health insurence.
8. I walk to try to get exercise for my lungs and heart and to lose a little weight, but sometimes the pain from my infected ingrown toenail, or perhaps bad weather that my lungs can't handle, means I stay in sometimes.

There are other, more obvious adjustments made for my health. The infected toenail was so painful for a while that walking anywhere required a cane for balance. I need to carry my asthma meds in my pocket, just in case. It doesn't escape anyone's notice that I'm overweight or that I wear glasses. Sometimes I have panic attacks.

But I am me. My challenges are a part of me, whether you like or not, whether it's convenient for you or not. I am not looking for a "quick fix" to being myself. I am not looking to have to reorder some parts of my life, and some parts wouldn't get reordered anyway. I like the taste of those herbal teas. I don't want to go out when the air's cold and dry anyway. Spicy food burns my tongue. Walking's an enjoyable activity that I like to do. Even if I didn't have Tourette's or social anxiety or autism-like symptoms, I'm still shy and prefer keeping my own company, so I wouldn't go out and become a party animal.

That isn't to say that I wouldn't be glad to be rid of some problems. I'd love to not be in pain. I'd love to be able to be broke without wondering how long I can go without meds before my lips start to turn funny colours. It isn't all positive stuff that comes along with my problems, or they wouldn't be problems.

But it's not all so terrible. It's not all something that's waiting for a quick fix. Not all bald men have hair transplants or wear wigs. Not all people with bad eyesight get corrective laser surgery. Nobody thinks badly of them for those choices, even if it would "fix their problems." So in that vein, nobody should look down upon the blind man who's content with being blind, or the woman with Celiac disease who doesn't suffer any for having to eat a gluten-free diet.

Or the person smiling as they limp down the street leaning on their cane, laughing at a joke their deaf friend just signed to them.

I wonder, if people looked closer, how many people they'd see with problems. People they know, whom they see every day, and of whom they never would have guessed suffered from anything at all, because they're so used to making all the little adjustments that allow them to live normally anyway.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
[personal profile] torachan makes an excellent point that I can agree with so very much.

For me, text-based communication is so much easier than talking face-to-face. Why? Because of the whole "talking" and "face-to-face" problems. Both of those come less easily for me than for most, and it's actually been only relatively recently that I've learnt that actual terms apply to me other than "lazy" and "someone who just doesn't want to try hard enough."

I'm shy. I've always been shy, right from the get-go. I suspect that being made fun of extensively through my youth played a part in that, but I also think that issues other than the social played a larger part. I suffer from an anxiety disorder, possibly other disorders too. (I fit a large number of symptoms for HFA -- high-functioning autism -- though I've never had a definitive diagnosis.) Being around people is difficult for me. Meeting new people is difficult for me. Hell, sometimes going outside is difficult for me. I can get by, for the most part, and even engage in some awesome activities like stage acting (it's easier when I'm pretending not to be me), but a lot of day-to-day stuff remains difficult.

I think perhaps things like acting are easier to do than some people expect because I have to psych myself up, and people understand that. Few people understand or let me take the time to psych myself up to answer the door to receive a package, or ask a store's clerk where the canned soup is.

On a good day, I'm able to make eye contact with people I know well, and even some people I don't know. If this is trouble, I can usually get around it to some extent by looking at their nose or forehead, close enough to their eyes that few people notice. On a bad day, I can't even make eye contact with my friends.

Body language? Body language doesn't mean much when I can't even look in your direction.

And that's discounting my hearing and speech problems. Again, something I've only recently learned that terms even exist for. I used to say that somewhere between my ears and my brain, the sounds I hear stop connecting to any actual meaning. Now I know it's called APD, or auditory processing disorder. It's not a terribly bad one, but it does mean that I ask people to repeat themselves a lot. It means that sometimes I can't tell you're talking to me if I'm not looking right at you, because I can't distinguish your voice as something that needs attention from all the background noise that doesn't need attention. Sometimes there's a delay in me figuring out what you said, which results in my staring at you blankly for a moment, not wanting to ask you to repeat yourself because I might actually figure it out soon.

But I also might not.

Speech problems? Like a good number of people, I stumble a lot when I'm nervous. I'm nervous a lot when I talk to people, because of social and hearing problems. Yeah, it's not pretty. I think I form concepts clearly when I try to talk, but I have it on good authory that I often don't. I think I'm being clear, but much like how my ears and brain don't communicate well, sometimes my brain doesn't transfer things to my mouth as well as I'd like. Maybe I use the wrong words. Maybe I leave out a concept that I think should be obvious, but it isn't, because I said it wrong when I tried initially to establish it. It's frustrating for all parties.

I communicate much more smoothly online than anywhere else. Here, I can make sure I use the right words, reread what I write before anyone else gets a chance to see it, articulate how I'm feeling without wanting to turn into a quivering pile or jelly at the mere thought or trying to articulate how I'm feeling. I don't have to rely on my ears and mouth, but on my eyes. My eyes and brain communicate much more easily than anything else on my head!

Oh, and let's not forget the Tourette syndrome. Yes, I have verbal ticks. Yes, they're embarassing in public. Around close friends, I can laugh it off when I bark or squeak. In a crowded but quiet bus, however, when everyone turns to look at the person who just shouted a sharp, "Bark!" it isn't quite so easy to laugh off. Then I get nervous and agitated, and my head starts to twitch more, which earns me even more stares, and makes me want to lock myself inside and never go out again because it's too hard to be around normal people.

Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes even my hearing problems are funny, because I 'hear' people say strange things a lot. Know how sometimes you get some funny things out of misheard lyrics? It's like that, only with talking. Rei saying, "Vending machines hate me," became "Venetians hit me," and a joke was born. When I'm with people who understand, I can laugh.

Most people don't understand.

Online, I don't twitch. I don't make weird noises. I don't mishear. I don't have to open my mouth. I don't have to look anyone in the eye. I can interact within my comfort zone, and I can make friends where otherwise I might be completely alone.

Most of my fleshy friends are not neurotypical. They may not have the same issues as I do, but they understand what it's like to be screwed up, and make allowances for my own screw-ups. Rei has OCD as bad as I do. Mary's bipolar and has told me frank stories about how she acted when she wasn't receiving treatment, and has implied that climbing the walls of buildings is certainly no worse than occasionally making animal sounds or twitching in public. Cass doesn't make much allowance for anybody's problems, even her own, but at least is usually good enough to ignore outbursts and tolerate times where I don't want to be around others or interact much.

These things are a part of me and I don't try, online, to pretend that I'm somebody or something that I'm not. I don't try to handwave my problems. But online, they're not a bother, or at least not as much of one, and so I can experience the joy of meeting people and talking to them without the worry that they're going to get freaked out and go away, or that I'll mess up too badly and not be able to talk at all some day. I can bypass all that crap and just get to doing what I want to do.

And I wouldn't give that up for anything. Communicating online has given me freedom from worry, freedom from expectations that couldn't possibly be met in a non-face-to-face environment. It's given me the freedom to be me without having to fight through a morass of problems in order to get there first.

Denounce online communication all you want. But it's been a sanity-saver for some people, a connection they may not otherwise have had, a form of expression that come more easily than others.

Just because your brain works normally... I don't expect everyone to go around expecting everyone to not be neurotypical. It's neurotypical for a reason; the majority of people are that way. But some understanding is nice, when it's revealed that my brain, his brain, her brain doesn't work normally.
sarasvati: Itsuki, from Fatal Frame 2 (thoughtful)
On another community site, I was reading a complaint by a woman with severe chronic lung problems, who was talking about her latest bout with illness was due to a coworker coming in for his shift when he knew he had bronchitis. She wondered why he'd do such a stupid thing, working while sick and risking the health of others around him as well as his own, instead of staying at home and recovering and sparing everybody else.

Why did he do it? Likely for the same reason that Rei suffers through pain every day, and why I work at call centres when I have a hearing problem. We can't afford to do otherwise.

Let me put it this way. Where I live, working 40 hours a week on minimum wage can get a person a little over $1000 per month. As I have learned recently through searching for a new apartment, a 1-bedroom apartment in a not-so-great area of town, one that needs work done on it, often goes for between $500-600 per month, with only some utilities included in the rent if you're lucky. That's 50-60% of one's earnings, and most financial experts say that typically one should only be paying about 30% rent or mortgage. Here, that would be $300 a month, and for that I believe a person could get a run-down bachelor apartment in a place that's well known for its drug dealers.

Get a bad case of the flu and get told by the doctor that you need to take a week off work? Feel just generally crappy and want to take a shift off in order to rest? Too bad. You need that shift because you can't afford to pass up the $50 you'd earn that day.

And those are just the immediate paycheque-to-paycheque considerations. Most jobs allow you a certain number of sick days each year before they start getting on your case. Taking more than than the number of days allotted (usually around a single week out of the entire year) can be grounds for punishment or even dismissal, unless you have a doctor's note. Your very job could hang in the balance, which makes for a very compelling reason to push past your illness and go to work anyway, no matter how bad you feel, no matter how sick you risk making those around you.

Want a doctor's note to cover your ass? You'd better hope that you either have a doctor you can see in less than 24 hours, like one at an after-hours clinic. And if you have something like stomach pain or dizziness, they demand you go to the hospital because it could be something they can't treat. (Even if all you want is a doctor's note to shut your bosses up.) That means that you sit in the hospital waiting room for hours because you're likely to be low-priority, infecting all those people in the waiting room with you, only to be told that yup, there's nothing the doctor can do and you should just go home and rest.

Here, some clinics charge $20 for a sick note. That's $20 out of pocket, plus whatever you're going to lose by not going in for your shift.

That's why people work when they're sick. Unless they have a very well-paying job, no debt, and don't mind living in a bad area of the city, they can't afford to do otherwise.

It sucks for all involved. It sucks for the woman who got sick because her coworker came in with bronchitis. It sucks for the man with bronchitis because he has every reason to work while sick and so few reasons to stay home. There is no way of winning. There is no right decision. Every decision you could make is wrong for a thousand reasons, and everybody loses.

Rei is sick again. He wants to stay home today. He wanted to stay home yesterday, but couldn't afford it. He can't afford it today either. He won't be able to afford it tomorrow. He will go in to work, spread his cold around, and work through pain and weakness and feeling awful, because he needs to eat, and he needs a place to live.

If I get offered another job at a call centre, I will accept it. My ears and brain don't function together the way they ought to, but that kind of work pays well and I need that sort of money. I will suffer through the frustration and humiliation and stress because I need to. When my lungs start to twitch and I cough like mad and can't sit up without gasping, I will push myself in for my shift and do what I can for as long as I can, because I won't be able to afford to do otherwise.

It comes down to money, but not greed. It is not a malicious attempt to infect people, but a desperate attempt to keep the bills paid.

I personally feel sorry for everybody in that situation. I've been the person who comes in to work sick, and the person who gets sick because others come in to work sick. It's hard. It's a never-ending battle of illness. But it has to be done because the alternative is being homeless and hungry.

Which, I imagine, won't do much good for my health either.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
Or: Why You Should Stop and Think Before Complimenting a Person's Appearance

Losing weight is something that's frequently on my mind, since I weigh far more than I ought to. I weigh enough that it is negatively affecting my health in ways that I can clearly see.

But I started wondering if a lot of the compliments that people get upon having lost wieght are somewhat backhanded, in a way. By complimenting, are they actually insulting?

My train of thought was thus: if I lost weight and somebody who knew me before having lost said weight walked up to me and said, "Hey, you lost weight! You look great now!" are they insulting me, albeit unintentionally? To me, it isn't hard to see how this could be insulting. By saying that I look good now that I've lost weight, there's the implication there that I didn't look good when I was larger.

That I'm attractive now that I'm smaller, and wasn't attractive at all previously, all because of my body's fat stores.

That I'm better and worth complimenting now, but wasn't worth it before.

The person complimenting may not be thinking any of these things, at least consciously, and they probably mean to be encouraging and congratulating. But it's that lack of thought that bothers me. They don't stop to think that complimenting a person's appearance now, when they may never have previously, might be construed as insulting, as reinforcing the all too common opinion that a person is only worth paying attention to if they're thin, or at least thinner than they used to be.

In my mind, that would be something akin to going up to a transgendered person and saying, "You know, you looked better when you were [previous gender identity]." Being fat isn't quite the same personal definition as gender is, but there's still something of the same attitude there. It's like social consciousness is talking rather than an actual person. For gender, it's saying, "You used to be normal, and now you've changed and are strange and not quite socially acceptable." For weight issues, it's saying, "You're worth paying attention to now that you look more socially acceptable."

Imagine if you complimented somebody on how great they look now that they've lost weight, and they reply, "Yeah, the chemotherapy really took a lot out of me, but I'm thankful that the cancer's finally gone."

Rei lost a lot of weight due to his health problems, and admittedly nobody said that he looked better for having lost the extra pounds he was carrying. Some people commented that he looked worse, but that had less to do with weight and more to do with the fact that he had huge dark circles around his eyes from fatigue and was frequently in pain. He did, however, get comments from coworkers that they'd "love to have her condition for a few days" so that they could lose as much weight.

Comments born of ignorance, and intending to be somewhat complimentary in nature ("Your condition has made you lose weight, which is desirable"), but what they're saying is that losing weight and "looking good" is important enough to want to go through pain and discomfort and weakness and a lack of understanding from those around you.

They may as well have said, "Gee, I wish I was anorexic!"

Comments of encouragement such as, "It's great that you achieved your goals," or slightly different compliments like, "You look really energetic," are far more acceptable than saying that a person looks good now that they're thinner. The fact that they're more appealing to you eyes doesn't mean much to someone who's struggled with weight issues for their entire life. They may be the very same person inside that they ever were, and all the complimenter is doing is sending them a message that now they're someone worth complimenting. Now and only now is when you notice them.

You may think you're just making a comment that they look healthier and happier now. But that compliment might be subconsciously backhanded, and have some far-reaching implications. If the person you're complimenting gains weight again, are you going to tell them that they look good with more weight, or are you going to tell them that they looked better before. Social niceties dictate that you're not going to do either, because both of those options are insulting. Even if, "You looked better before," is meant as encouragement, it still means, "You don't look good now."

No, more likely you're not going to comment at all. You're going to look awkward and go quiet if weight issues come up in conversation, because you don't want to inadvertantly insult the person who just put back on 40 pounds. And your silence is telling them that now they're not worth commenting on. It says that you're too polite to say something obviously insulting, although you're probably thinking it. Or it tells them that now they're not thin anymore, you just don't think about their appearance one way or the other.

It seems like this is a situation where nobody wins. Everyone's damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Rei commented that sometimes people just have to learn to accept an intended compliment for the intended compliment it's meant to be. His parents used to make comments about what a nice young lady he'd grow into, and it bothered him until he just decided to take the compliment for how it was, since his parents couldn't see into his head and understand how uncomfortable that gender definition was. And while I can appreciate that sentiment and how much trouble it saves, the "sit back and take it" attitude is why things don't change. Though it would be an awkward and uncomfortable situation, wouldn't it be better to explain to parents why that comment is a bit insulting? Then maybe they'd stop doing it, and everyone would be better off.

Would it be wrong of me, when confront by the comment of, "You look great now that you've lost weight," to ask in return, "Does that mean I didn't look great before?" Yes, it would make the commenter feel uncomfortable and perhaps even guilty, but it might get them to also stop and think, think about how they ought to consider more than their or society-at-large's idea of what "looking good" is.

Or even selfishly, why should I be the one to be uncomfortable by backhanded compliments like that? Why does it have to be me? Why can't it be them? If somebody has to be uncomfortable, why must it be me? Why do I have to stay silent and keep perpetuating society's slanted views?

Sure, it makes social interactions less complicated and less trouble free... But in the same way that it would if homosexuals pretended they were straight, and if ftm folk would just wear dresses.

Nothing changes by being silent.

Nobody thinks unless they're made to.

I hear that a lot of people who lost weight and are met with the comment of, "You look great now," often reply, "I feel great now," as a subtle way of trying to convince the other party that looks aren't the be-all and end-all of weight loss. Things like that mean that I'm not alone in my opinion that such appearance-based comments carry a touch of insult with them.

Frankly, I think I'd like to watch a few people squirm when I ask them if I didn't look good before. I want to know what they'd say. Would they break social norms too and say that I didn't? Would they backpedal and try to salvage their comment? Would they stop and think and admit that I had a good point?

Would they learn?
sarasvati: (bite me)
Inspired by this post, I decided to bring over a rant that I first posted on Livejournal, regarding public perceptions of overweight people. It was written in January 2010, when I had little else to do all day but watch videos I found online. (Not that this has changed much, given my employment status...)

I'm watching Supersize Me, and thus far it's definitely an interesting watch, but I've found one quite objectionable thing that I feel needs addressing. The comparison of smokers to fat people.

The comparison wasn't that both smokers and fat people are in unhealthy situations. No, the likeness being drawn is that they both intentionally put themselves in unhealthy situations. The person being interviewed mentioned seeing one guy start heckling a smoker about his habit, and how that was socially acceptable, but heckling a fat person for eating too much wasn't. He said he could draw no distinction between those examples.

Nice to know that some people are really effing blind.

For one thing, outside of stupid tabloids, babies aren't born with cigarettes in their hands and mouths. A child can be born obese, on the other hand. It isn't common to see parents pushing cigarettes on their kids. It is increasingly common to see parents pushing unhealthy fatty food on their kids. Smokers don't make appointments with doctors and are suddenly told that they have a "smoking condition" which will make them smoke for the rest of their lives. Some people, on the other hand, end up with metabolic disorders through no fault of their own, which makes them gain weight easily and shed it with great difficulty.

I think comparing fat people with smokers is unfair. Comparing compulsive overeaters with smokers might be a little closer to the mark, but the insinuation is that every single overweight person is overweight because they choose to overeat.

It may even work that way in the majority of circumstances. But not all, and it's not fair to tar everyone with the same brush.

In media, it's still a gag to have a fat character who's obsessed with food. Heckling smokers in public may be more acceptable than heckling fat people, but smoking is also more accepted in the media. Nobody blinks an eye if somebody lights up a cigarette in a movie. But everybody laughs if a fat character dives after another piece of chocolate cake.

I'm overweight. I also eat for comfort more than I should, and eat more junk food than I should, and I don't eat as many vegetables as I should. And some of that is my own fault and I hold myself to blame. But some of it is because I have not yet broken down all the habits of childhood, where my parents thought it was better for me to drink Coke than orange juice, where they'd allow me to eat 3 burgers from McDonalds when I was 8 years old, and where vegetables other than potatoes were a rare occurance in the household. I haven't always been this large, but I have nearly always been a larger than average child, and I'm sorry, but when my eating habits are under the control of my parents (mostly my dad, who's still largely overweight), there isn't much a child can do to stop developing bad eating habits and to avoid putting on excess weight.

In the obesity crisis these days, people tend to overlook that aspect of things a lot. They see an adult who's fat, and who has been fat all their lives, and they blame the person. It doesn't cross their minds for a second to remember that for many years, that person's food was under somebody else's control. My father once tried to force me to eat bad eggs or else go to bed hungry, not listening to my complaints that the omelet tasted horrible and metalic. How am I to blame for the weight I put on during those years?

And yet somehow I am. If anything, people will look at fat adults and hear that they were fat children, and also instantly make the assumption that once the person got out from under their parents' thumbs, they should have worked out every day and dieted like a fiend and lost all that excess weight very quickly so that they could avoid being blemishes on society any further.

Here's a newsflash to all who think like that: IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY!

I'm not defending everybody who's overweight. I'm simply saying that all overweight people are not the same as all smokers. And I'd appreciate it greatly if people would stop saying that.

If you want to look at it from an overeating point of view, how about this: implying that overeaters are as publically reviled as smokers makes them feel bad. Which makes them want to eat for comfort. Which makes them larger. It's a load of bullshit, but it might fit better into some heads to phrase it that way.

Very very narrow heads.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I had an explosion of fanfic ideas last night that I really must write down before I forget about them.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
I'm up far too early again this morning because my body didn't want me to sleep past 7, for some unfathomable reason. Staying quiet because Rei is still sleeping and needs his rest more than I need mine at the moment, but I have plenty of reading to keep me busy, so it's not like I'm just sitting here and doing nothing.

Rei found the phone number of a local organization that assists people with self-diagnosed disabilities find jobs. I wouldn't quite say my myriad conditions are disabilities, exactly, but they have been getting worse and I haven't been able to find a job, so I'm willing to take all the help I can get. The head jerking from my Tourette's has been escalating in frequency over the past year and a half, and I'm no longer as able to keep the verbal tics under control when I'm in public, making for some very awkward moments when, say, riding the bus or getting groceries. Sometimes I've been in pain because the muscles are so overused and stretched, and it's really hard to concentrate on much when it looks like your head's glued to your shoulder. The auditory processing problems make it so that I can't understand people unless they speak clearly and/or are not around a lot of background sound. Social anxiety means that on a very good day I can speak to strangers if they ask me the time or when the next bus comes, and on bad days it's easier to pretend I'm deaf than to try to force words past my lips.

APD makes working at call centres really hard, but I don't have much choice but to apply for positions there. They pay well enough to allow me to go to university eventually, and they're some of the few jobs in the city that offer health insurance so that I can keep getting my $140-every-two-months asthma medication without much trouble. (And, if I go back to the neurologist to talk about the Tourette's getting worse, will probably make affording Haldol easier, too.) Things like this are why I enjoy overnight shifts. The calls are few and far between, so I'm not having to tax myself constantly in order to hear properly. A 10 minute call every hour is much easier to handle, hearing-wise, than 5-6 10 minute calls in an hour. And talking isn't that big a problem in such situations, either, since it's easier for me to pretend that I'm not really talking to anybody. They aren't there in front of me, looking at me, so I don't have to worry about not being able to meet their eyes or what they think about my head or hands twitching and I can mute the microphone if I think I'm about to bark.

So to make a long story short again, I'll call that number on Monday and see if that organization might be able to help me. Rei plans to call them to see if they can help him find a job that will allow him the schedule he needs to get healthy again, or perhaps advicate for him to her bosses so they understand the severity of what's happening.

But now that the mood has turned heavy, I'll lighten it again with a meme I stole from [personal profile] torachan before going back to my book.

Questions and answers. )
sarasvati: Greyscale image of the Digimon Kaiser. (kaiser-mode)
Here I am, awake at half past 6 in the morning, unable to sleep any longer because Rei and I went to bed early last night in preparation for his pointlessly early shift at work today. Only he won't be able to go in to work for that shift because he's in so much pain from the chronic health condition that his workplace refuses to accommodate. And he can't call in sick yet, despite his shift starting in only half an hour, because despite the fact that people should be there right now, nobody's answering the phones.

There are no words. I truly despise his bosses for being so negligent and dismissive and outright cruel. It isn't as though they haven't received two doctor's note recommending they give him certain considerations to help with the condition. It isn't as though his condition isn't recognised. It isn't as though he's just pushing for accommodations and not showing any signs of illness, as he was forced to take 30 sick days last year.

Those were days when the pain was so bad that he couldn't really walk without assistance. Pain any less than that, pain that maybe only caused him to double over every once in a while and break out in sweating and chills and be forced to sit down and rest every half hour... That, he'd work through*.

The condition that shouldn't be so disabling has practically turned into a full-blown disability for Rei, because his workplace won't make a few simple schedule adjustments and allow him things like predictable work hours or regular eating and resting times. This is a day when his pain is so bad that the standard procedure for us both is to carry around our cell phones, in case he needs help doing such "trifling" things as walking three feet from the bathroom back to bed. Today is a day I won't leave the apartment unless it's with him, in case I'm needed to get him a drink or his medication or any number of little things that healthy people take for granted the ability to do.

He's in the process of taking this matter to higher powers. The Human Rights Commission can do nothing until he's taken this as far as possible within his company's politics, so he has to contact the regional office to see if they can force him particular store to to stop being ass-backwards about accommodating for a chronic health condition. If they insist on not doing anything, only then can he take this to a government committee instead. It could take a year to sort this all out because of beaurocracy, another year where Rei has to worry about spending days in pain, worrying whether he'll be able to make it in for his shift, wondering whether regular eating and resting times will even make a difference when he's too sick and tired and hurting to eat anything.

I hope it stops when the regional office hears what's been going on. Realistically, though, it won't. His workplace is one that follows in the grand footsteps of Wal-Mart, complete with human rights violations, health code violations, low work hours, and corporate bullshit. I hope it will stop, but realistically, this issue will probably have to be taken as far as it can possibly go to get any results at all.

A person shouldn't have to involve the Human Rights Commission to get simple accommodations like this. It shouldn't have to go further than the workplace manager. But this time, it has to, because it seems that the higher up on the ladder of command one goes there, the less people are able to tell their asses from their elbows.

They disgust me. It's thanks to them that Rei is now going to spend today feeling guilty about not being able to go to work, filled with almost twice the recommended daily dose of painkillers, probably an anti-nauseant, two different kinds of prescription medication, potentially a few kinds of other pills to manage additional symptoms, lying on the couch with a heat pack on the worst of the pain, getting most of his hydration through an herbal tea that we've discovered helps with pain and inflammation.

All because of a condition that, when properly managed with such simple things as a regular living and working schedule, a good diet, and regular exercise, shouldn't cause more than an occasional bout of discomfort.

* Rei said that if he stayed home every time the pain was only that bad, he would have actually worked for 30 days last year instead of being absent that amount.
sarasvati: Itsuki, from Fatal Frame 2 (thoughtful)
I'm awake far too early this morning, nursing a cold that won't let me get back to sleep. I'd say that I'll end up taking a nap later to make up for it, but it's even odds whether or not I actually will. I may wake up enough with the help of food and a cup of tea that I'll be able to get by until the time at which I normally go to bed.

Decided to delete HeRO from my laptop and to download DreameRO instead, partly to avoid somebody I don't much want to talk to anymore, and partly because I screwed up the characters that I created there, through a lack of forethought and planning. I did all the research for Jazriyah and Razreesh last night, and I'll get all the detail I need for Suraiya while the client's still downloading. Possibly in between more episodes of Digimon Adventure 02.

It seems that no matter how hard I look, my city either doesn't have career counselors or just doesn't have any advertising for them, which is a real shame. I've thought about finding one in the past, as an aid to finding a job that will actually make good use of my skills instead of trying to force me to mold to a position I am not suited to in order to make money. I could potentially have access to one half a province away, provided I had transportation to them (I don't) and have a disability (I have challenges, but nothing that would be called a disability, I think, except on the really bad days). There are quizzes and tests that the government job bank has access to that can help you identify where your talents lie, but none of those will actually, say, vouch for me in the event I apply for a job in that field.

This is something I've complained about often. I can have all the skills in the world, but unless I've paid for and passed courses at some school or another to prove it, nobody will even look twice at me. I could be the world's best technical writer, for example, but I'll never be able to make use of that skill as a job because unless I've taken a course in technical writing, essentially learning what I already know (and thus wasting money on the class). If I had a career counselor, somebody with whom I could sit down and talk, they might be able to vouch for me, tell potential employers, "Oh yes, we've tested this one and she has all the skills you need." Or perhaps help me find financial assistance for going back to school.

Even being a baker these days requires accreditation. Something I could learn and master at home if I so desired, and short of getting a lucky break in a bakery that's a little lax on standards, I couldn't turn that into a career no matter how much I know.

Not that I want to be a baker. That was just an example, since I saw the profession listed on a summary of apprenticeships.

I suppose that there's really only so much a career counselor could do for me anyway. Just because I have certain strong skills doesn't mean that there's actually a market for them here.

Rei told me about somebody he used to work with who ended up leaving her retail job to to university after finding some organization in the city that helps with such thing, finds loopholes and all sorts of financial avenues. This person reportedly was told not to work at all through her education, that her full tuition and cost of supplies would be paid for, and she would have enough left over to pay her household expenses.

I wish Rei remembered the name of the organization that did this, since I'd love to take advantage of their services. If someone or a group of someones would be willing to pay for my education and my expenses while getting said education, I'd jump at the chance. Not having to work would mean I could handle a full-time course load, and be finished with a degree in four or five years.

I need to go to the unemployment office soon anyway, so maybe I'll ask them what they can do to help. I hear that the government is often willing to pay for at least some of a person's university education if they're on EI, gambling on the hope that they'll complete a degree and get a well-paying job in the country so that what they paid for me will be more than recovered by the taxes I'll pay in the future. I'll see that bet, if they give me the chance.


Mar. 31st, 2010 02:53 pm
sarasvati: Itsuki, from Fatal Frame 2 (thoughtful)
The receptionist for a gastroenterologist just called for me, to see if I still wanted an appointment relating to a referral they had received from the hospital.

It took a bit of digging to find out what was going on, since she didn't say she was calling from a gastroenterologist's office at first, instead giving the name of the doctor (I'll call him Dr. C). The referral was in regards to a hospital visit last August.

I'm not sure if I should be relieved that I finally have an appointment, or disgusted that it either took the hospital so long to send the information or the gastro's office sat on it for so long. Right now my reaction is somewhere in the middle.

Either way, I have an appointment for early October. Hopefully this will help with one of the more distressing health problems I suffer through.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
I was awoken after less than 6 hours of sleep by a sneezing fit, sinus pain, and a sore throat. Perfect. I knew the thing missing from my life was another illness. Now I am complete.

I was too awake to just roll over and go back to sleep again, so I got up, hoping that some medicine and tea will clear up enough of the symptoms to allow me a little more rest before I go out to lunch with my parents today. If I go out. My mother has strep throat, and with a new job potentially coming to me, I really can't afford to get sicker than this, especially not from some opportunistic infection spread to me because she can't resist the urge to socialize.

If Rei weren't still in bed, I'd use this time to watch another few episodes of Seirei no Moribito before (hopefully) getting tired enough to go back to sleep for a few hours. But sound travels really well in this apartment, I don't have headphones, and she needs sleep more than I do. I think I'll read for a while instead.


sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)

August 2011

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