How long do I push and how hard do I fight? Questions I have to ask as a warehouse worker with cerebral palsy

The animals are all eating dinner. The Teenager has gone to care for her last client of the day. I am emotionally wiped out from all the events of the day, or the week, or maybe the last couple weeks. My friend from work, a beautiful and sassy Puerto Rican woman whom we shall call Spicy (because of her outspoken Aries nature and her abundance of passion), told me I should go home and drink some tequila.

I’m still waiting for initial contact from the insurance company of the person who hit me Friday night after work. Unfortunately, I did hear from my insurance company about my six-month-bill due next month. It doubled in cost to more than $3,000. I’m just flabbergasted.

I always have a lot on my mind and a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, and I know with my volunteer work, I put a lot of the pressure on myself by saying yes to things.

I visited my chiropractor after work, actually having left early because someone else must have booked my 3:45 appointment. She believes my current issues probably stemmed from the change at work, and started with my back and then effected my hip.

Part of me wants to write this post and submit it to the online social media forum for people with disabilities, The Mighty, because I want a conversation, but I also don’t want to risk exposing myself to issues with my employer.

So, let’s see. Summary: I work in a warehouse folding clothes. I completely disclosed my disability to the person hiring me. This was more than two years ago. In the last year-ish, we’ve had our jobs changed, our shifts changed twice meaning we’ve worked three different schedules in that time, and a recent change (December 2022) in how they measure our performance.

But, you might think, how many ways are there to count how many clothes you fold in a day?

Well, when I was hired, they took the average of how many clothes you folded over the week. If the goal was 100 a day, then if you got 98, 100, 100, 102, 100 you passed the week without incident. I succeeded with this system. I might have several days at 102 or 103 and then a day at 95. And as long as you were consistently about 90 nobody cared. Realistically, my numbers were probably 90, 98, 100, 100, 105.

Now, we work in series of 20-day blocks, and we’re allowed to miss 100 twice in that block. They look at every day independently. I knew I could not reach that expectation. I asked my neurologist to fill out accommodations paperwork. My company has been fantastic working out accommodations for me– but what to do about the days I’m more crippled than usual?

To address this, I applied for intermittent FMLA leave. The company that administers it first granted me six hours every six months. So, I did a new set after talking with my examiner, and despite my listing weekly doctors’ appointments I got the equivalent of one day a month. And because I’ve been experiencing such issues lately, and with my almost cardiac scare last week, and my service dog appointments, I have no paid time off left. I will not have that time replenished for about a month.

That brings me to the present. So, even though I did 100, 100, 110 and 90 last week, I’m already one day down. Then they moved me to a different department Friday, and my body doesn’t handle change well.

Monday I did 86% while in complete discomfort and periodic intense pain. Yesterday I did 93% while in moderate pain. They wrote me up with a first warning today. Apparently each warning comes with a month of focus on an improvement plan, during which they lower expectations. I’m told I only have to hit 90%. Today I think I hit 95%. I can’t say exactly because I had an emergency preparedness training, a safety committee meeting, a sit-down with my boss so he could administer my warning and I left early for a doctor appointment.

When I signed the paperwork, I mentioned that my lack of performance is a direct result of issues stemming from my disability which may or may not have been caused by the change in my working conditions on Friday.

I’m trying to do everything right. But it’s damn hard and I’m damn tired.

Now… the questions I wish to ask and address do not relate specifically to my company or my boss. I think the situation I am facing mimics what we see in the medical industry as well. We no longer live in a society where doctors and bosses have the power to make individual decisions.

In the interest of fairness and preventing discrimination, we have blanket rubrics that determine how every person needs to be treated. My boss knows I work hard, and he knows I will come through in the long haul. His sidekick who interacts with us all on the floor has a disability himself.

And it’s not like I was hired last week. I was hired more than two years ago. And that person who took a chance on me? They got rid of her in well-publicized lay-offs.

Apparently, they have four rounds of warnings before you “separate.” But if I recover from this current cerebral palsy episode of malfunctioning body parts, hit my numbers, and then experience something similar in a couple months, do I get another first warning? Or does it progress to second? Do I care if they “separate” me? They changed the job I was hired to do into one I cannot do, and I can’t do it because of a disability they know I have.

This is when I also mentioned that I only intend to use that leave time for unexpected occurrences. That when appointments are scheduled I will continue to used my paid time, my unpaid time and voluntary time off when offered.

The advice I was given was to have new papers filled out (the third set in as many months) requesting a full week of time off every month. That implied to me that only answer is to call off when I have any sort of discomfort– because if I show up in the building and leave when I’ve already fallen behind that will count toward my misses. But I have no paid time left, and my official leave only covers one day a month.

And sometimes the motion of the day resets my misfiring muscles.

Part of me is done fighting. I love my job. I love the company. I do hate my current schedule. But I like the routine of it all, I like that it leaves my mind free for my own endeavors. If I did give up on striving to meet the standards, I wouldn’t quit. I would still give as much as I could until the end.

But I just keep asking: when do I give up? Will I ever reach the point where I can do my job without hurting myself and will they ever reach the point where they stop upending the process of what we do? I don’t know the answer.

In better news, our neighbor brought us a fresh fruit arrangement. Which the Teenager and I devoured.

In case I forget to say later (it’s only 5:30 p.m. and there will be tequila in my future):

My blood pressure has been damn near perfect.

What I ate today:

  • 4:30 a.m., one cup Suprcoffe coffee, dark roast, with half and half
  • 6 a.m., first breakfast, Kind Breakfast bar, oatmeal peanut butter, banana
  • 8:30 a.m., second breakfast, plantain chips,* peanut butter
  • 11:30 a.m., lunch, stuffed pepper soup, diet pepsi
  • 4 p.m., herbal iced tea (rooibos)
  • 4:30 p.m, four slices cantaloupe, two balls honeydew, one strawberry, one massive pineapple heart covered with milk chocolate and sprinkles
  • 6 p.m., planned dinner, green salad, tequila

(and about 56 ounces of water)

*the plantain chips have some nutrients and are pretty low in sodium

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