View Full Version : The real story please

11-02-2006, 07:54 AM
I hope everyone had a fantastic Halloween. I did! Of course I paid for it some yesterday, but I think it was worth it. I just love Halloween!

Anyway, I need some opinions from my favorite "experts" regarding the effects of stress and heightened emotions on my symptoms. For those who don't know, I have been diagnosed with SLE, Fibromyalgia, and secondary Reynaud's and Sjogren's Syndrome. I am on Plaquenil, Mobic and trazodone and start on Methotrexate this weekend. I have been sick for about two years and was just diagnosed in June.

Anyway, I work about 44 hours a week in a busy Los Angeles County law office. I am a senior paralegal, a department head. I have a ton of responsibility, two assistants and of course, a lot of stress that accompanies my job duties. But I also have the added problem of two co-workers from another department who have decided in the last year or so that I get special treatment because my boss has not fired me for all the sick time I have had to take off. We have a small office, 7 people. These two "ladies" have decided to gossip about me on e-mail, stop participating in office parties if I am participating, they leave me alone in the office on the days when the others are out at hearings or people have called in sick/they go out to lunch and leave me alone to handle the phones and then if someone finds out that they left they call me nasty names and accuse me of "tattling". Basically, act like small children. They have gone so far as to send around a couple of e-mails with "research" to say that because I am overweight, I have caused my illness, and should be fired because I brought this on myself.

Anyway, because we are a small, specialized office, my boss feels we need all of our employees, and has been loathe to fire anybody, despite their behavior, but I literally feel sick about going into work half the time. It has degraded to the point where they don't give me phone mesages, don't speak to me when I say hello, and are generally rude. My boss wants us to "talk it out" but we have tried and I have bent over backwards to be nice and have had it thrown back in my face. I also know that when faced when having to fire two people vs. one to stop the problem, it is easier to fire only one, and I am the one.

Obviously, my stress level is enormous. Coincidentally, over the past six weeks or so, as all of this was coming to a head, my physical symptoms have escalated as well. I really truly want to know, does all this stress have something to do with it? OR is it just in my head? Would I be right to go to my boss, who has been incredibly understanding and flexible so far, and tell him that something has to happen because all of this added stress is making me worse?

Thanks for any opinions or input you all may have.

11-02-2006, 08:30 AM
No, it is NOT IN YOUR HEAD!!!!! Your stress level can and will exacerbate your symptoms. When your symptoms worsen, your stress levels rise and your symptoms worsen. It is a vicious cycle. There are many websites and articles that talk about the relation between Lupus and Stress; it is a very real correlation!!
Your work situation sounds very much like mine prior to my taking an early retirement. Both my co-workers and my supervisor became adversarial and it took an enormous emotional toll on me each day that I had to go into the office. Fortunately, I did most of my work from my home and only had to go into the office two days per week. But, that was the main source of their anger as I was the only person allowed to work from home and they resented that. So, they did many, many things to sabotage me and to make it appear as if I were not doing my job.
Anyway, like you, I became extremely despondent, depressed, riddled with anxiety and almost paralyzed with stress. So, as expected, my work did start to suffer.!! I completely understand how you feel and what you are going through. I know that you feel as if you are in a catch 22 - you can't quit because you need the job, but you need to get away from the stress because you need to protect your health!! I was fortunate in that my husband is gainfully employed and told me to take an early retirement and sue my job (which I did..and I won!).
I wish that I could give you good advice about how to handle those "witches" on your job! All I can do is to tell you that it is important to try to reduce your stress levels because they can have a direct affect on your symptoms and can induce a flare. Also, stress can make your flares worse and you might have a longer bout of a extreme flare!!
Please try to find a way to do that, at the very least! Maybe you can get your doctor to give you an off-work order for a couple of days due to stress so that you can at least get some rest!!
I wish you the very best...please let us know how things work out!

Peace and Blessings

11-02-2006, 11:15 AM
Good lord, Peach, I can't imagine how stressful it would be to work with such toxic co-workers. Even though I don't work as a paralegal now, I did for several years while attending school at night, so I know just how stressful the job is even without the added stress of workplace bullying, which is basically what these people are doing to you. The law firm where I practice is a bit bigger, we have offices in several states, but most of the senior legal staff have worked there at least ten years, so the environment is very family-oriented - on-site daycare, flex-time and telecommuting are pretty common, so no one feels I'm getting any special privileges by working at home - a lot of us do it, and meet once a week for lunch to review pending cases and discuss assignments.

I'm not sure what the job market is like in California, but I would think your skills would be in demand. So if the work situation can't be easily resolved, is looking for another job an option? Or even working free-lance where you can set your own times.

One thing I do know, this situation can't continue -it's bad for you and bad for the office as a whole. If you have talked to both these women and things haven't improved, it's time to get your manager or supervisor involved. In such a small office there's no way to avoid them, so sooner or later this situation is going to escalate out of control. And the constant stress will eat you alive.

11-02-2006, 11:26 AM

Hi Peach,
I am sorry to hear about the way your coworkers are acting. Stress can absolutely make your illness worse in all spects of the disease. I quit my job, because of my coworkers and the stress they caused me. Actually it was the nurse and her staff that made it impossible for me to work. If they fire you, you should immediately go right to the Labor board and see about slapping them with a lawsuit for Discrimination big time. I would document everything those two workers do and have the amunition ready big time. Nobody deserves to be treated like crap, because they have an illness. I hope that you can get the work situation straightened out before it does anymore damage to you. I will keep you in my prayers. Hugs, Kathleen

11-03-2006, 11:20 AM
Well, yesterday, i left for work right after I posted. Two seconds after I walked through the door, I was confronted by one of the ladies about a situation that had happened earlier in the week where the boss had found out that they had left me alone in the office to go to lunch together for about a half hour, which is against office policy (the leaving one person alone in the office part). She started yelling at me and calling me a child and a liar, to my face, in the middle of the office. Then the really mean lady, the instigator of all of this, came out of her office and was standing there with her arms crossed just smiling. When I stepped into my boss' office and asked for help, he got defensive and started yelling at me too. So I walked to the other paralegal's office and said "I quit" and went to my office and started packing my personal belongings. After about five minutes, I was in a full panic attack and fully hysterical but very determined. I called my husband to pick me up. My boss apparently got himself together and realized I was serious and what really happened and he was beyond upset. When my husband showed up and started carrying my things to the car, my boss was sweating and begging me to stay and offered me a raise and a new desk for my office and promised me he would fix it. He was absolutely adamant that I could not leave. I told him that the only thing that would fix it would be for the meanest of the two to get fired and for the younger one to have a serious attitude adjustment. He didn't want to fire anyone and I told him that if he didn't, then I was gone and I would be filing personal harrassment suits against both of them. I said that my health and my life were not worth the stress and especially with starting new meds this weekend (the methotrexate) I was not willing to continue putting my health at jeopardy to make him money. He went and talked to them behind closed doors, and the most awful one resigned, rather than be fired.

So at the end of the day, the most horrible person I have ever had to deal with lost her job, the other one is pretty scared, I still have a job, I got a raise, I have a new desk coming, and I got told to stay at home and work from my home computer today. Too bad I had to go through a year of torture and one of the worst days of my life to get to this point, but hopefully, things will get better.

11-03-2006, 11:48 AM

I am very happy for you. I am glad that you got the meanest of the two gone from your work space. You can believe that your boss was worried. He knew very well that you had the grounds to sue the pants right off of him. I am glad that you stood your ground. I am proud of you. I would have done the same thing for sure. I quit a job, because they upped the production and I felt that it was not good for my health and also the nurse for the plant would not release me for work, due to the Lupus. I just quit and decided to be a stay at home wife and apply for disability, due to my back problems. I am just glad that you have a better situation at work now.


11-03-2006, 11:55 AM
Peach, it does sound like a horrible day, but at least there is a chance things will improve now. And now you know just how much your boss values you, which should make you feel really good about your job and your skills! Maybe he realized how hard it is to find outstanding paralegals - I know they are few and far between here. I interviewed about a half-dozen last month for a litigation position with our firm and not one was qualified. So your boss is very smart to hang on to you! Finding anyone who can work independently with a minimum of supervision is almost impossible. One woman who had fairly good references seemed promising, so I gave her the table of points and authorities for the brief I was working on, and asked her to cite-check and shepardize the cases for me - she didn't know where to start. So that eliminated my best applicant.

I hope this woman being gone changes your office for the better - I suspect you are not the only person glad to see her go,

11-03-2006, 02:15 PM
Good for you Peach! Way to stand up for yourself :D

11-03-2006, 03:52 PM
Peach -
I am so happy that things have worked out for you and that you stood up for yourself. I hope that things will definately change for the better!

Best of Luck

11-06-2006, 06:48 AM
You are so brave!!!
Im sorry things got so far that you had no choice but I am sooooo impressed with what you did!
What a role model!
I hope you celebrated with style!
No-one deserves to be bullied but so often we put up with it. I think especially as women and especially if our bodies don't work right. My sister put up with being beaten by her husband for years because she felt bad about him having to put up with her Rhuematoid Arthritus.
Well done for standing up for yourself!
Glad your boss saw the great skills and potential you have and made the right decision!


11-06-2006, 10:30 AM
Thank you all for your support and good wishes. I am back at work today and feeling much better about everything. Too bad the drugs are making me feel like I am going to go blarrghh all over the place 8) .

Hope everyone has a great week!

11-08-2006, 11:22 AM
I thought I posted this yesterday, but it didn't show up....brain fog, maybe.

I am proud of you for standing up for yourself. And more than a little angry that your boss didn't step in sooner.

In my experience, bosses are wierd. Male bosses are stranger still. (sorry all you men out there.) Be wary that he may harbor soe resentment at being "backed into a corner" and realizing that you were not bluffing about leaving. Keep any and ALL documentation that you have of what has happened, and continue to document. This is a clear cut case of harrassment, which he did NOTHING about until he HAD to. But I don't have to tell you this, do I?

These women are obvious sociopaths. The thing is, they just go through life acting in the same despicable way until one day, they bring about their own demise. I've seen it happen so many times. Hey, I posted about my current legal situation under Hair Today, Gone tomorrrow....but I called you Georgia (the peach thing, I guess....sorry!) I'd love to have your opinion on this as well.

Again, I am so very proud of you!!!!

11-08-2006, 11:36 AM
Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Yeah I kind of got the resentment thing on Monday, when the younger girl just happened to call in sick. He basically said to me, "If she quits too, we'll be in big trouble around here...." and raised an eyebrow at me. I know he is not thrilled with me right now, and I for once, pretty much don't care. I mean, of course, I really need my job and it pays well, and he has been really flexible with the time off and the transportation issues, but I would rather file for bankruptcy than deal with the crap and I won't let him make me feel guilty.

I will go and look at the other post again and put my comments over there. thanks again!