20 votes

Have you ever been discriminated against because of a disability (specifically mental illness?)

Hey gang!

So it has been a minute! I alluded to my plan to venture off into the woods in prior posts but didn't go into too much detail. Any who, I'm back but not on my own accord.

The reason I ask this question is because it just happened to me. I've struggled with depression and anxiety for going on 15 years, I've talked to a lot of people about it, gotten help, and received a lot of support over the years. I have never had it blow back in my face like it just did. Super long story kind of short:

  • I want to offer some context here, that not more than a week prior, my organization had a "getting vulnerable" meeting whereby we were asked (but not required) to share some information about ourselves with our crews. Crews worked and lived together in remote back country settings for months at a time, to be honest it went pretty well. I did not open up too much at the time as I had just met everybody, but eventually I got more comfortable.
  • I told the wrong person at my work, my direct supervisor (I was in no danger at any point during my employment, this information was given in a contextual fashion. Because we work so closely together for weeks at a time and also live together, these types of things tend to come out.)
  • They told the wrong people (management).
  • I was talked to for 5 hours in a closed door meeting with the top brass of the organization (read: interrogated and asked to give a comprehensive psychological background, even though I had already given them a topical briefing during the hiring process.)
  • I was pulled out of the field for liability reasons (I openly objected to this, saying that said field was best for my mental health.)
  • I was placed on an "in-town" crew that I did not want to join (I openly objected to this as well.)
  • I tried to exist on the new crew, but found it immediately and chronically untenable. My new coworkers were OK people, but the stark contrast in personalities between my old and new crew was jarring. Given our line and nature of work, this is super important and there's no way top brass didn't know about this. I voiced this and once again requested to be placed back in the back country at a base camp, I was ignored.
  • My mental health began to catch up to me. I did not like my position in life or at work, having to live in the city which is something I came out here to entirely avoid was crushing any and all morale I tried to work up.
  • The writing was on the wall. I didn't like it there anymore, and my employer didn't seem to care (despite their claims) about where I was within the organization.
  • I voluntarily resigned due to mental health reasons rather than just walk out. The urge to entirely burn this bridge and emphatically explain to them why what they did was so improper was incredibly strong, but I decided not to. This organization is a big name in our field and the field isn't all that big, they stated that I'd be welcome back, I'd sooner clean a peanut butter covered shag carpet with my tongue.

The general mood and sentiment during all of my conversations with staff members could be described as tense. The way in which I was treated during all of those meetings was as though I was a conglomeration of suicidal, homicidal and a direct threat to anybody near me. I could literally see their brains doing very careful dance numbers as they walked over what they thought were eggshells, when at no point was that the case in my view. Their actions, disguised as being motivated by empathy, came straight out of the Harvard Business School of Cover Your Ass. At one point they mentioned they had a psychologist on retainer that they were consulting. I have seen so many damn therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, shrinks and every other name in the book over 15 years. I have never met one that would ever make any absolute statements or suggest any concrete actions before even meeting a patient. Their inability to even empathize with what I had been going through was apparent. At no point did they seem to consider the human in the room, it was always "we appreciate what you bring", "you are a good resource to have", and the worst of all "we hear you, but..." Holy fuck the lingering but was bad. "I'm not racist, but...", dude sit the fuck down.

So that happened within a week or so. There's quite a few more details but I don't want to make the entire point of this post to rant (even though that's what it has turned into.) I am now jobless, homeless as housing was through my work, in an entirely new city to me and floating on savings. It's not too bad to be honest. This is not my first homeless (hobo, vagabond, rubber tramp) experience/adventure, I'm not financially comfortable (I'm on borrowed time) but I'm not broke and honestly I'm in a good place mentally. I've been camping in the woods and I've got everything I need to survive. I'm even super involved in a local activist group, if that's any testament to how comfortable I've become in my current position.

So, does this sound familiar to anybody here? Have you been discriminated against in this fashion? How'd you react? Cope? Where did you go from there? I'd like to hear from others to simply know I'm not alone in this bullshit. I've been in support groups for mental health, and other reasons, but I've never realized the need for this subset of people to seek support. It's been 10 days now and I'm honestly still in shock.

Feel free to get as vulnerable as you want, I won't tell your fucking inept boss.

14 comments

  1. [3]
    tempestoftruth
    (edited )
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    That's so incredibly shitty of your employers, I'm sorry you had to go through that. It's hearing about situations like this one that often keep me from doing sharing my stories in a more public...

    That's so incredibly shitty of your employers, I'm sorry you had to go through that. It's hearing about situations like this one that often keep me from doing sharing my stories in a more public fashion. That being said, I think being open about our experiences is always better and I admire you for being willing to talk about mental health at work and taking their ridiculous response in stride. I will never understand how ignorant people can be when it comes to the lived experiences of their friends and coworkers with mental illnesses. Not to mention how absurd this whole situation is - why ask employees to get personal if you're going to punish them for doing so?

    Since I usually refrain from sharing much, and a section of your post spoke very deeply to me, I'll share a bit about what I went through, and why I think I can relate to what you've told us.

    The way in which I was treated during all of those meetings was as though I was a conglomeration of suicidal, homicidal and a direct threat to anybody near me. I could literally see their brains doing very careful dance numbers as they walked over what they thought were eggshells ... Their actions, disguised as being motivated by empathy, came straight out of the Harvard Business School of Cover Your Ass ... Their inability to even empathize with what I had been going through was apparent. At no point did they seem to consider the human in the room ...

    I was the target of sexual harassment in secondary school, and after a pretty serious incident, I brought the issue to the attention of my school's administration. The teacher who had been in charge of the classroom during the incident took me aside a few days after I reported the assault, and had a conversation with me that I believe is similar to the one you had. Although the teacher was trying to present himself as understanding and empathetic, he didn't give a shit about how I felt. It wasn't important to him that I had been through something traumatic. He treated me like I was unstable. His only relevant concern was eliminating the threat I posed because I could go public, sue the school, file a complaint, etc. and make him lose his job, and he did that by advising me to forget I had been assaulted and to continue the same relationship with my abusers as we had had prior to the incident.

    It's not exactly the same, but victims of assaults are often framed as unstable, not dissimilar to the manner in which people with mental health struggles are often presented/understood by ignorant neurotypical people, and I feel the end goal of your employers and my school were the same: reduce liability as much as possible, even if it means dealing additional harm on top of what we had already shared with them. My goal here isn't to equivocate but to try and relate to experiences that aren't my own by understanding them through what I do know. I'm not sure if you'd agree.

    15 votes
    1. [2]
      precise
      Link Parent
      I'm so sorry that happened to you, thank you for sharing your story. I totally agree that it seems the opposing parties in both of our cases seemed to have the same objective in mind. It's just...

      I'm so sorry that happened to you, thank you for sharing your story. I totally agree that it seems the opposing parties in both of our cases seemed to have the same objective in mind. It's just amazing how common this seems and I think it speaks volumes towards how much work we as a society have to do. That even as of when this article was published in 2011, religious practitioners were still utilizing exorcisms to "treat" what the scientific community clearly recognizes as a spectrum of mental illnesses is mind boggling to me.

      I'm glad I'm not alone in this, but I'm also happy that my sharing has encouraged others to speak to their related experiences. Discrimination hides in darkness.

      2 votes
      1. tempestoftruth
        Link Parent
        Happy to finally let go of some of that pain, and contribute to more open discussions in the future :)

        I'm glad I'm not alone in this, but I'm also happy that my sharing has encouraged others to speak to their related experiences.

        Happy to finally let go of some of that pain, and contribute to more open discussions in the future :)

        1 vote
  2. [3]
    Gaywallet
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    This post makes me so incredibly angry at the absolute state of the world. The fact that this kind of behavior is seen as acceptable, by a single person let alone an entire management team is...

    This post makes me so incredibly angry at the absolute state of the world. The fact that this kind of behavior is seen as acceptable, by a single person let alone an entire management team is extremely upsetting. I am so sorry that you went through this kind of discrimination. No one deserves this kind of treatment.

    Their inability to even empathize with what I had been going through was apparent

    This is a big driver as to why we look to experts when it comes to making decisions. In most civilized countries, you'd have legal recompense for being treated this way because many places have come to learn that having a disability does not mean you can't perform your job and that we need to protect people who are disabled.


    With regards to your question about discrimination, I've been quite lucky that the majority of the discrimination against myself has been rather minor in nature or without any extreme consequences or issues. I've never disclosed any mental illness diagnoses at any places of work for fear of issues like you've brought up (although never would I have imagined it would lead to such extreme action) other than to mention that I struggled with depression as a child a few times to very specific people who seemed like they could use some empathy.

    In fact, for the majority of my life I've learned to separate what goes on in my social life a great distance from what happens at work. While this often has people complaining that they don't really "know" me, I have kept this distance for a good reason. I identify as a lot of persecuted identities and it's much easier to pass at work as a "normal" person. That being said, in recent years I've recognized the privilege that I've been afforded passing as what people assume my identity is, and have been working towards "outing" myself so to speak in a variety of ways.

    I've already seen more than my fair share of discrimination based on identity - gender, ethnicity, outwards appearance, demeanor, etc. but becoming more "visible" in the ways that I identify at work has been an interesting process. I think I still have a long way to go to fully understand and appreciate the repercussions. It's much easier to shake off persecution in my personal life when people invalidate my existence because I can easily cut them out of my life or reduce my interactions with said person. In many ways I'm not looking forward to this additional visibility, but I feel it will go a long way to helping normalize many of the minority groups I ascribe to. Hopefully this will make people question twice about whether someone saying they have depression really matters for others in the future who are not willing to come forward with that information.

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      precise
      Link Parent
      Hey, sorry for the late reply! Living in the woods tends to make internet access.. difficult lol. I think you have a good grasp on what's it like to be the person you are in the world, but I am...

      Hey, sorry for the late reply! Living in the woods tends to make internet access.. difficult lol. I think you have a good grasp on what's it like to be the person you are in the world, but I am sorry that it has made you become reclusive in what could otherwise be socially fruitful. I hope we someday see a world, or you someday find a place where you can feel comftorable to be who you are, in your own skin, out in the open.

      Speaking to your comment about normalizing neuro-atypical people, I think that's kind of a latent motivation for me as to why I am so open about my struggles. I have often attributed it to the idea that I've been talking about myself to professionals on a weekly basis most of my adult life, but I think it is more than that. I hope that my assertive attitude when speaking on mental illness and how people struggle, while it might make some people uncomfortable, is part of my contribution to normalizing what is already normal.

      2 votes
      1. Gaywallet
        Link Parent
        You know this is actually something I've struggled with for a long time. I'm an extremely socially malleable person. I wear a lot of masks. I've taken meyers-briggs and received every possible...

        I think you have a good grasp on what's it like to be the person you are in the world

        You know this is actually something I've struggled with for a long time. I'm an extremely socially malleable person. I wear a lot of masks. I've taken meyers-briggs and received every possible "personality". To put it simply, I'm an extreme social chameleon, and it's often confused me how people can have such a strong "sense of self". It makes sense to me to be adaptable to the environment that you are in. However, I have slowly started to uncover some universal truths about myself, so its nice to hear that someone else actually feels like I have a strong sense of self.

        I hope we someday see a world, or you someday find a place where you can feel comftorable to be who you are, in your own skin, out in the open.

        In ways I've never really felt uncomfortable, but there is a distinct difference with being open and honest about something and choosing not to bring it up because you know it's better not to. Deflecting answers and presenting the way you believe people want you to present definitely is not a way I want to live anymore.

        I hope that my assertive attitude when speaking on mental illness and how people struggle, while it might make some people uncomfortable, is part of my contribution to normalizing what is already normal.

        I think you're doing a fantastic job so far! While I don't know you very well yet, I want to thank you for posting this thread and sharing your experience. While it is unfortunately a negative experience, it's important for people to be aware of the kind of persecution people can go through over something like this. Its disgusting how you were treated and I hope people see this and fight on behalf of you and others in the future.

        3 votes
  3. Grendel
    Link
    I cant prove it, but I absolutely believe that I was discriminated against because of my ADHD. I worked as a tech for a pc repair shop. I had my meds on a little keychain pill bottle. One day, a...

    I cant prove it, but I absolutely believe that I was discriminated against because of my ADHD. I worked as a tech for a pc repair shop. I had my meds on a little keychain pill bottle. One day, a co-worker makes a big deal about finding a pill on the ground and takes it to the boss. Everyone is super concerned about it, so I tell him that it's mine (I recognized it as soon as it was found), that I have a prescription, and that it's for my ADHD.

    Less then two weeks later I was fired.
    The official reason was that I had said something negative in front of a customer. What I said was "Yeah employee name is always moving on to the next greatest thing". Basically I said that employee was always looking for cutting edge technology. According to my boss we nearly lost the customer over it and that's why I was fired.

    I still think my ADHD disclosure was at least part of the reason I was fired.

    8 votes
  4. [2]
    bloup
    Link
    I was forced to withdraw from my first 400 level math class in the middle of the semester at the University of Maryland by the professor Denny Gulick because he refused to accommodate my learning...

    I was forced to withdraw from my first 400 level math class in the middle of the semester at the University of Maryland by the professor Denny Gulick because he refused to accommodate my learning disability. I wound up dropping out of college, that was a big contributing factor.

    6 votes
    1. precise
      Link Parent
      I'm super sorry to hear that. Props to you for being so open and assertive about what happened, let the world know! The more people hear these stories the more we can familiarize neurotypical...

      I'm super sorry to hear that. Props to you for being so open and assertive about what happened, let the world know! The more people hear these stories the more we can familiarize neurotypical people with the struggles of neuro-atypical folks. Have you considered going back? Not to that university necessarily but to school in general? Maybe find a school that you know will accommodate you right off the bat?

      2 votes
  5. dblohm7
    Link
    I have been discriminated against in both professional and private settings. As a professional software developer, my pool of potential employers is limited by their interviewing processes. I am...

    I have been discriminated against in both professional and private settings.

    As a professional software developer, my pool of potential employers is limited by their interviewing processes. I am unable to interview with companies that do the Google-style technical interview. Before my diagnosis, I tried a few of those interviews, and I've gotta tell you, it's damned near impossible for me to do well in those (and definitely no fun) because I experience panic attacks throughout the whole experience.

    I thought it was all just because I was "not good enough" until I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (among other things). Now that I have that understanding, I just don't bother with those companies; their interviewing processes are fundamentally incompatible with candidates like me.

    As for personally, my family is aware of my mental disorders. I have one narcissistic family member who has decided that the root causes of any friction between the two of us are my mental disorders, specifically the medications that I take to help treat them. They go around telling all their friends and extended family that I have turned into some kind of drug-addled wingnut who cannot be reasoned with. And because they are very effective at concealing their narcissism among that crowd, other people buy that story, hook, line, and sinker. I have been excluded from family events because of that.

    6 votes
  6. [2]
    beanie
    (edited )
    Link
    The problem with being discriminated at work due to a mental illness is how one can never really prove it. Or you are in so much pain, you just want to leave it! I'm so happy you are trying your...

    The problem with being discriminated at work due to a mental illness is how one can never really prove it. Or you are in so much pain, you just want to leave it!

    I'm so happy you are trying your best to maintain the lifestyle you want (living in the woods). Try your best everyday. You sound like you'd be an awesome ranger or camping host or something. Or maybe you can start your own business where you can guide people/ first timers threw the woods (how to survive in the woods course for dummies or something).

    I was miserable in my last job and was dealing with a lot of mental health issues that were being triggered from my personal and professional life. So my therapist and I decided it was best for me to take an additional day off. We chose Wednesday (I thought it was best because if I took Friday off, I thought I'd be seen as a slacker). So we used FMLA to get Wednesdays off for me. The company I was working for was not happy at that at all! And (most) of my coworkers started treating me differently. One person told me that no one likes me... why would you tell a person you know is depressed that no one likes them. I carried that around with me for a long time (still do - just suppressed). Anyway, the company laid off some people because things were slow and I was first on that chopping block. I can't say it's discrimination. But Idk what their criteria was for laying people off. Just a week earlier my supervisor mentioned I had chops to become a project manager (level above me). And when they were laying me off, the CEO in the room said "you're taking this pretty well, I didn't expect you to take this this well" and I asked "how did you expect me to take it" and he said "not well!" and excused himself out of the room. I felt like I wasn't able to "not take it well". I am an example for them. I have to be the best example their is or else they'll just use whatever behavior I have to prove their own narrative.

    I want to keep my mental illness to myself, but it's just so hard. It effects my daily life, which means it's going to effect work. I can't hide it. And at the same time, theirs just a huge stigma. And there's liability bullshit. It's all crap. I have a friend in HR and I hate saying this, but fuck HR. They think of R before H. Or, they think of humans as a resource.

    Sorry, I'm still carrying all this around with me.

    I admire your strength. I'm glad you did something that is best for your mental health given the situation you were in. Keep being strong. Keep updating us.

    P.S.: What's annoying about losing a job because of your mental illness is losing your benefits/ access to therapist.

    More P.S.: My therapist told me a story about how she was an emergency call responders in college for those who had suicidal thoughts. One of the things they had to do was pretty much kick the person out their dorm and they also weren't allowed to take classes. They weren't allowed back into their dorms, even if a therapist said they were okay to go back to classes. I would never admit I was suicidal if that was the case. I'd lose all my financial aid if I wasn't enrolled in classes. It's so catch-22. Like you said:

    Their actions, disguised as being motivated by empathy, came straight out of the Harvard Business School of Cover Your Ass.

    4 votes
    1. precise
      Link Parent
      Yeah, that layoff sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me. That you got direct verbal abuse in response to your schedule change is even worse! I totally get comments like that sticking around with...

      Yeah, that layoff sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me. That you got direct verbal abuse in response to your schedule change is even worse! I totally get comments like that sticking around with you, in your head, they always rear those attached emotions when you need them the least. For me, the foremost comment in my mind for almost a decade was made to me in the 8th grade (I was 13 for anybody not used to the American education system). After being in a new school system for a year, I finally began to open up. I was on the precipice of what would turn out to be a lifelong struggle with mental illness at the time, I was just starting to get assistance, no diagnosis. I had a girl who I barely knew say, "I liked you better when you didn't talk". That one comment, from someone inconsequential, crushed me. So I totally understand, sticks and stones is a bunch of shit, sometimes words can hurt.

      As for the "How did you expect me to take it?" line, I think that's golden to be honest. I honestly wish that a manager in my situation had said something to that measure. It honestly might have pushed me to the point of burning that bridge in a fury of verbal hurling not seen since the 2016 US presidential debates. Honestly, that line was a trap in your case I think, I really do think it was a trap. As you said, there is absolutely no win for you in that situation and all you can do is just tuck your tail and leave. It's absolutely infuriating.

      I'm sorry that you had that experience and I hope you have found a better place since then.

      1 vote
  7. [2]
    Tygrak
    Link
    That sucks so bad, fuck corporations that do stuff like this. I guess it's almost unavoidable when every decision is made soullessly by committee, by people that don't even know you. I hate how...

    That sucks so bad, fuck corporations that do stuff like this. I guess it's almost unavoidable when every decision is made soullessly by committee, by people that don't even know you. I hate how impersonal and inhuman bureaucracy is. As you said how they just want to cover the companies ass. Of course people will be scared to share anything about themselves if such a stupid reaction as you described can happen. But that means keeping a big part of yourself hidden, at a place where you spend so much time of your life, which is really draining in its own way. Of course good, actually fulfilling jobs, with good people where this bullshit doesn't happen probably exist, so it's probably not all bad. But damn they have to be rare. Good luck finding another job. Hopefully with less assholes and more humans this time.

    I wasn't ever really discriminated against, cause I am young so I didn't get too many chances, but back when I still had my last job, my manager once told me that some coworkers complained about how weird I am. One thing is being anxious constantly at a job, thinking of what others might think of you, and another thing is actually being told that your coworkers don't think good things about you :(. I didn't really like working there before that, but the job was ok enough, that I was doing it for about 2 years. If I was more assertive, smarter and able to do job interviews properly and stuff like that I would have probably found a better job way earlier. I think I did so much good work and got paid peanuts, barely more than if I worked as a cashier. After I got told that, I immediately wanted to quit, but like an idiot, I stayed at the job for like 3 months after that, again probably thanks to anxiety. God I am stupid.

    4 votes
    1. precise
      Link Parent
      Hey, anxiety can be such a job wrecker. I lost another job exclusively to anxiety! There wasn't any discrimination in that situation, but my employer let me work 70 hours a week as a customer...

      Hey, anxiety can be such a job wrecker. I lost another job exclusively to anxiety! There wasn't any discrimination in that situation, but my employer let me work 70 hours a week as a customer facing managed service onsite technician for a year. That's unfortunately bound to get to anyone and looking back I wish they had forced me to pump the brakes. None-the-less, that your manager felt that they had any right at all to come to you about that "complaint" is a huge red flag. "Weird" is subjective at best and there's no real way to address that without taking direct offense. It's incredibly infuriating that something that vague was presented to you in such a manner, doubly so if your struggles with mental health played into it before and after the fact. When you say that you stayed on for another 3 months, that resonated with me. My anxiety kept me from leaving the aforementioned job for several months before I finally had to quit on short notice. My therapist had been urging me to leave for a month before I finally left.

      Lastly, you are not stupid. If you struggle with mental illness, it is just that, an illness. Are people with cancer stupid because they simply have it, have to take time off of work for chemo or because they lose their hair and look "weird"? No. So why the fuck should we be stupid? We aren't. Mental illness can impair ones abilities to make decisions, especially when we don't have someone or a support system in our lives to help us step back, pump the brakes and make better choices.

      Give yourself more credit, you seem like you're getting down on yourself when you don't need to be. I do it to, we are better than we make ourselves out to be.

      3 votes