Anyone that has an invisible illness has been through some form of discrimination, it happens every day. Often times it comes from doctors that do not believe their symptoms, to notes on cars demanding they don’t use their parking placard (just because they’re not in a wheelchair). We have family and friends that are estranged because of broken promises or arguments about their illness. To the point that many people with unseen disabilities are afraid to even mention their conditions and live in unspoken pain on a daily basis. Personally, I have chosen to be vocal about my disabilities. This is not to “create drama” or solicit sympathy. It’s because if people stay silent, nothing changes.
For twenty years I worked in the retail industry, many of those years were spent in management. Even though it was rough on me physically, I actually loved it. I was good at it! I’m a natural sales person and manager. But eventually my body couldn’t take it any more. I went to part-time for several years, but even that wasn’t good enough. One of the hardest parts was letting down the people I worked with. More than once, I had issues with fellow employees not quite understanding what I was going through. But how could they? At the time I only had a Fibromyalgia diagnosis, which (to be honest) should have been enough! Unfortunately, to many people it’s not. So, after a long time contemplating leaving a field I felt comfortable in, I ventured out into the world of job seeking.
It took significantly longer than I would have liked! So many jobs had requirements that I just did not meet, especially ones where I would have had to lift anything or be on my feet for a certain amount of time per day. A big part of why I was getting out of retail was to get away from all that. So I tried to focus my search on desk jobs, but I had very little experience there and it showed. Until one day I saw a listing for a chiropractors office. Perfect. How many hundreds of times had I been to the chiropractor?! I had a serious edge here! So I put in my resume and got called in for an interview. (side note- I don’t want to get into a debate on whether or not people with Fibromyalgia should go to a chiropractor. I am all for it and they’ve helped me tremendously. Each individual is different and the doctor will know if they can help them. Ok… moving on.)
I had gotten a lot of differing opinions on whether or not I should be upfront about my disabilities during the hiring process for any new job during my search. According to law, I do not have to disclose anything… at all. It is totally up to my discretion. There are some people that argued that I couldn’t tell them and I would be in trouble if I did. But I had hired enough people to know that wasn’t the case. They couldn’t ask, and I didn’t have to say, but if I felt the need to tell them I could. So I did. Maybe it was stupid, but in this case it was a good thing (especially now). I explained my limitations and told them upfront what I could/could not do. The big thing that they were looking for though, was someone with a lot of customer service experience, and I definitely had that! Add that to my personal knowledge of chiropractic, I felt very comfortable there. They understood my conditions and were willing to work with my accommodations. I promise all this is going somewhere very important.
The office I work in isn’t like a typical chiropractic clinic, where the doctor is the owner. It’s a franchise and there are multiple doctors that all work under the owner/owners. I’ve been here now for two years and for the most part really enjoyed it. Like any job, there have been ups and downs. But I love helping people and our structure here is wonderful! So, what could have possibly happened to prompt this super long explanation? Harassment in the workplace.
One of the doctors (yes, DC- Doctor of Chiropractic) has taken it upon himself to be the judge of my illness. Apparently I am a “drama queen” and shouldn’t work there if I can’t do simple tasks. Ok… I will relax a little and explain more rationally. Here we go.
There have been several times this particular doctor has brought me to tears because of cruel statements. I chose not to make a “big deal” out of it because I do suffer from chronic anxiety and depression, so I know it’s easy to set me off. That being said, this last time was over the line. I recently hurt my left shoulder (rotator cuff) and he knows all about it. There was a task that he had helped me with multiple times (putting an easel out side), but when I asked him to help me this time, he proceeded to joke that he couldn’t do it because of a “flare” (in obvious reference to my fibromyalgia). He said it with such sarcasm and directness, that the tears welled up right away. I went back to my desk and stewed. I couldn’t let this one go. I decided I had to ask him “I need to know what you meant by that, were you deliberately making fun of my illness? Because you have no idea what I go through every day.” Flashes of my latest blog past (written just days before) called “A Day in My Shoes” danced in my head and I stifled back and urge to say “If you could just spend an day feeling my pain, you wouldn’t say sh*t like that!” But I didn’t, I took the high ground. What did I get in return? A hand in my face and a refusal to talk to me because he was “tired of all the drama” and “if I couldn’t handle putting out a sign, I had no business being there”. I was then told to go home.
Instead of going home, I called one of the owners. Being professional and not wanting to make a scene in front of any patients that may walk into the clinic, I stepped outside to make the call. While on the phone, this doctor came out and continued to verbally abuse me and said “you need to grow up and stop being a tattle-tale, we have a patient”. My response was “Excuse me? You’re the one that should grow up, I am speaking to an employer from an employee about a work issue.” He huffed and went back inside. He came out later and berated me to get back inside again, causing another scene when a patient walked up, while I was attempting to avoid this very thing. Unfortunately, my employer did not condemn his behavior. She defended him. They offered to let me switch offices, so I didn’t have to work with him. So, for now that’s what I have done, but I’m not letting it go. I have every intention of pursuing this until he understands that what he did was not just about making me feel bad. This is about disability harassment. They knew my limitations from day one. He (as a doctor that has treated me on many occasions), knows what I can and can’t do. I cannot and will not let this slide.
So, why the title? Harassment, Hypocrisy, and Hope. The first one should be pretty obvious. Possibly even the second, but I’ll explain. He should know better, period. Maybe he was having a bad day, or maybe he was just over my “drama”, but nothing can excuse the hypocrisy of what he did. As a doctor, he made an oath to take care of people like me. Not to break us down. But there is hope! That this experience will serve as a tool to educate others. If what happened to me can prevent someone else from tearing down others with a disability, it was worth it. Just don’t let it happen again! Please, educate yourself and others… (for me).