I am lying on the floor of the ladies’ restroom at my employer’s office in downtown Denver. I can hear the heels of women coming in, using the bathroom, talking to each other and then leaving. I am simply paralyzed.
I can’t get up and at this moment in time I am thankful that these bathrooms have doors that go all the way to the floor, so no one sees me.
I left my cell phone on my desk and I am trying to think about how to get the heck out of the office without anyone seeing me like this: broken.
I knew that today would be challenging as my boss had placed an appointment on my calendar to meet with her. “A touch base” she said. But, my gut knew better. I had been left out of calls, client meetings and appointments. Somehow, I felt I was being punished for not being present. I mean come on, I just lost two people in my life.
I would come into work, sit in my cheese cube, and stare out into space. Why did I not go with Carl to Tiajuana? I chose work and team over what was the last two weeks of Carl’s life. Never again. I could feel the emotional hurricane coming on and my friends were telling me to go see a doctor.
So, I had scheduled a doctor appointment at lunch that day and when I walked in, I burst into tears. The doctor’s nurses and staff stopped and looked at me. I was a wreck. The Doctor took me in an office and started evaluating me.
“What are you doing for yourself?”
I couldn’t answer. I was getting up going to work and acting like all was ok. But the cracks were beginning to show. She calmly said to me, “if you don’t go back and take a leave of absence, I will call them and let them know, you need it.”
I returned to the office, and waited for the appointment with my boss. Little by little the office started emptying. Then my boss walked by, clicked her teeth together and said “come on” and pointed toward the stairs. I thought to myself, I thought we were meeting in her office.
I pull my stuff together and again she says “come on.” I turn to my co worker and say, “did she just click at me?” There was a small nod, yes. So it wasn’t just me thinking I was hearing this sound.
As I follow her, we are walking up the stairs and she calmly says, “I have asked HR to be involved in this conversation.” My heart skips and I think, Really? Really? You called me 4 days after Carl died, asking me when I was coming back to work and now, this?
Another crushing moment crept in.
We walk into HR and as we sit down I notice a stack of emails printed out and the HR Manager starts to talk, she is nice and I can see the look on my boss’s face. Before they can dive in, I quickly put up my hand and say, “Why was I not offered Family Medical Leave Act for myself? I do have short term disability, Right?”
They both stop and stare, I start to tell them I had been to the doctor that day at lunch and she recommended I take some time off. My anxiety and grief was causing physical problems. I then fall into one million pieces right then and there. Tears are uncontrollable, the cracks had broken and the raw feeling of emotions surged out like a wave. I was falling apart.
They both start to talk and I really don’t even hear them. Except they finally stop long enough to say, “we will get back to you.”
I choke on a breath and say, “I am not leaving this office hysterical.” So we all sit and they talk. I am thinking to myself, “pull it together Esther and get out”
I finally stop crying, dry my tears and excuse myself. And here is where I find myself on the floor in the bathroom. I start to reason with myself that I should be able to get up, wash my hands and face and get out and back to my desk.
I gather up the courage and run for it. Avoiding any eye contact. I get to my desk and see my phone. A text from my boss. “Can you please come back upstairs?”
I swallow and pull all of my personal belongings into my briefcase and bag. I look around and it is a full on ghost town. Friday before Thanksgiving, everyone has left. I pull my stuff out, pack up and then begin to walk away back upstairs. As I turn and look at my area, I think, “here sat Esther, at the lowest point in her life, she had so much hope for a bright future with Carl, until he died.”
I think about the people I met and the personal growth I had with these employees I worked with, they tried to be the best support system.
I walk upstairs and walk back into HR. They hand me the Family Medical Leave Act as well as the HR manager in charge of Short Term Disability’s contact information.
I walk out and my boss walks with me. I know she is uncomfortable. I know her heart is huge and I know she just doesn’t know any better. She always said she disliked having to handle emotional people. I failed her in so many ways.
I take the elevator to the garage in the basement and get in my car. I sit for a few moments and then say to myself, “I can’t believe this just happened. I am so sad and alone. I hear people say things happen in three’s...and this was the third death to me, realizing this job would never be the same for me.”
I know I was put in Denver for a reason, one day it will all make sense. But right now, I wish I had my person to call and tell what has happened, but I know HE already knows, he is the angel on my shoulder telling me to go get some rest.