Tech Journal: The List - Female, Black, African, Disabled

Tech Journal: The List - Female, Black, African, Disabled

I got a termination letter today, and I felt the need to give a vulnerable view of the journey to that point after 3 short yet powerful months with them. People rarely mention events like these. I however chose to write a full novel about it, with Chasing Cars playing in the background and everything. I'm the main character in this space. Let's take a walk... TL;DR warning.

There is so much career advice on the dos and don'ts on how to ensure you are "hireable". For some of us, it involves fitting parts and pieces of ourselves into the wrong puzzle. And then there are frames filled with all the wrong puzzle pieces and some frames missing on their right pieces. But I am controversy embodied with a pinch of salt. Excuse me while I drag my afflicted, slightly bitter self, with a bag of audacity through some ableist walls to the best of my ability today; just to help you walk a mile in my shoes. I'm hoping to make a way for those of us described by the list and blocked by it too. For all we know, this article alone could be my entire purpose for existing.

The don't for today would be: don't talk smack about your previous employers. Don't mention negative experiences as they may ruin your future potential opportunities with employers. But I also lack the ability to give them the view from my end; them and many more like them. I believe that the silence keeps the company's true composition hidden; and just like that person after person comes into the ship, becomes a part of the ship, then leaves the ship with only parts of themselves. After giving pieces of themselves over and over, by retirement, there's almost none left for themselves. The ship that was originally built on wood now has a beating heart and veins flowing with the blood sweat and tears of their employees... your blood, sweat, and tears. There's a story behind each one of those parts and those tears and blood and sweat. This is only one such story.

This week last year (from the 24th of October 2020) is a very significant week in the story of my life. I beat death, and most of all survived to live in a torture chamber of a body for a good long while. I also regretted beating death and resented my cowardliness of not being able to take my own life and end my pain. It takes courage to do so. Pain is a horrible thing no matter where it touches. If I could place my body aside and work purely based on my drive, I'd be a rockstar by now. But unfortunately, I have to drag it along with me wherever I go. Therefore' its problems become my problems.

Before October 2019, it would have been completely impossible for someone to convince those who knew me that I can be incompetent in my career. Even if it was a completely new career, and my whole life had just practically been reset. I was able to give the honest, absolute, and expected all I could give. Then something happened in late 2019. I don't know what it was though. At the time, I didn't even know it had begun happening. I started getting tired and fatigued a lot faster. And my ability to juggle multiple responsibilities started to go down. I thought I was simply heartbroken, had taken on too much or all that plus just getting older. And I started giving myself the pep talks. Reminding myself not to waste the opportunities of a lifetime. Opportunities that have no room for weakness. And a continuous reminder that you will always be expected to deliver a lot more than the standard characteristic list of the dominant species in the industry. Healthy and privileged. It doesn't really cross your mind, until one of these things on the list that you're prone to or born into decides it needs attention. And you, the less privileged ones, has to stop running on the race track for a while. The rest keep moving, and you have to find a way to catch up and keep your "personal problems" to yourself. Work like they don't exist. I wondered what it would have looked like if Covid only affected women ..... I digress.

Moving on. I'm not here to talk about the disadvantage of being a person defined by anything and everything on the list. I'm here to tell you about my October 2019 - October 2021. The journey to discovering my disability and the way it affected my career. Mistakes I made, ways I was treated and treated myself, going through the stages of grief, and the likes. It's been exciting and depressing altogether. I'll be raw on some of these things. If you don't have a strong stomach ... it's probably best if you don't let that personal problem interfere with the reading. After all, you should have perfected that by now. Speaking of ... what does perfection entail? Maybe if you were born into the items in the list and you've known no other way of existing you adapted to not letting your list-related issues affect your job performance amongst other things. But what do you do if your situation is acquired? You transitioned to being a trans-person, you found yourself in a foreign ecosystem existing as an unfortunate inferiorly-considered minority, lost a limb and suddenly you had to be the truck driver with one leg?

There's no training on that part. No one prepares you for it. No one expects it to happen. Suddenly you become the thing that people speak in whispers about behind your back or even daringly enough, smack to your face. I used to sell myself as the person I worked hard to be when I was okay. But health hit hard, and I have had to go through all 5 stages of grief and find a way to convince my personal and professional circles why I am still worth their time, space, resources. No matter how much of your best that you can achieve, you mostly still become the "person who used to be a certain way before this happened". They speak of you as if you died. Because to them, the originally acceptable version of you to them did die. You are now a person they wouldn't pick.

I started getting into that phase in Oct 2019. I was in denial about a situation I didn't even know was happening. I continued to sell myself as a person that was slowly fading away. I could see it happen but kept grasping desperately to a deprecating version of myself. I was no longer the great I had been told I was. I had begun being a former great with incoming disability. I didn't know that my entire list of standards to set for myself needed to start changing.

I continued to be harder on myself. And others were hard on me as well, because they knew me. They knew me I was before. An extraordinary, occasionally annoying force of nature that had beat so many odds to get there. I was less getting lesser by the day. There's nothing we use to measure the health and agility of an employee daily to determine what level of productivity to expect out of them that day. We are allowed to give exceptions for one or two bad days. But indefinitely? We never had that conversation when we entered into a contract. We are always prepared for a finite event. No one saw it coming. Or just prefer not to deal with it. So what happens if I lose that chance because I was a less efficient person than I was when I first signed the contract, and later realized it was no fault of mine? If I needed some time to learn and adjust how to live with this new entity that has now attached itself to every part of my life? I'll let the lawyers answer that. No really, if you have an answer, do share.

I proceeded to have more and more bad days. It started with "I had a bad day", to "I had a bad couple of days .... weeks, two weeks" and by March 2020, every single day started becoming a bad day. And good days became the rare thing. When it creeps in slowly like that, all the toxic positivity crap can really get to you. I was desperate for the older acceptable version of me. So I confessed my sins in prayer, did my daily affirmations, meditated, journaled, filled my walls with sticky notes, exercised, spoke positivity into my life, followed the instructions in the laws of attraction; I did EVERYTHING! People become convinced that a person with such "issues" probably did something unforgivable to deserve it. But I on this side try to look at what certain people would deserve by my standards, and I'm reminded that life follows nobody's standards but its own. That journey is depressing. That journey is horrible. That journey is lonely. But whatever beauty that manages to come out of it is magnanimous. It will however NEVER feel like it was worth the pain. People want to be happy, mentally stable, and healthy not stronger! Tough experiences many times take away a lot more than they give.

Let's not even discuss how the healthcare industry deals with the people with the list. "What level of affliction is this?" they wonder. Based on that list alone, suffering is already an expectation. It comes as a shock to them that you could pursue the alternative. It seems like nature already chose your path for you. You have the list. Everything bad that could happen should happen to you. I wish I could tell you that I was suffering from a bad case of low self-esteem causing me to exaggerate this and play victim. But I know there's already one or two people nodding and feeling validated reading this. If you are one such person, I am truly sorry that any human being made you feel unworthy of happiness, success, good health, opportunity, consideration, or respect.

Come March of 2020, I was juggling a couple of projects. Still in denial that I no longer had the capability to handle that level of work. In my few years of experience in the international community, I have learned something important. There are people, then there's a collection of the exact opposite of the list. That privileged group when all together, becomes a different species entirely. They taught me as a person with the list something very important: when you have the chance to use them, use them. They will not hesitate one bit to cut you off for breathing in their direction. Let's imagine you already had one or two of the "afflictions" from the list when getting hired. They were immensely generous enough to give you the grand opportunity to impress them with expectations far greater than they would ever expect from their own. But if one more thing is added to your list, just one more, that's pushing it. You're already black, female, and African, there was no room for you to be disabled and still remain functional to them? You're practically a corpse! They wait for you to cough, and suddenly your performance has been concerning for the last six weeks. Despite what feedback they gave you yesterday. I mean you're great, but if only you were the complete package! They did the best they could. They actually deserve a standing ovation for their efforts at achieving this diversity thing. They didn't actually expect you to take it so seriously. Or to actually be ... you know ... having health issues from your disability? Can it be controlled to occur only when authorized to? There's this deadline right now. They thought perhaps you could put that aside at their convenience. But since you require special conditions, they don't have space or resources to deal with that. The ROI isn't justifiable. It was great having you appear on their website to make them look good. Adios and best of luck anywhere else but there. They always truly hope anyone else can appreciate you in a way they never could, or ever want to! Of course the information is wrapped in NDAs for not disclosing the terms of your termination and vague termination letters. They are within their right to do so.

As I continued to regress, I was gas-lit more and more by doctor 1 through to doctor 6. "It's just stress", they said. "See how your heart rate has increased and your BP is borderline? You need to take it easy", they said. Sometimes even looked irritated that I could waste their time on such a thing. I mean, I already had PCOS and endometriosis. I have already been subscribed to my genetic's natural allocation of limited and conditional biological position. How dare I look for relief? As each day passed, I continued to lose the ability to do task after task. I couldn't focus anymore. I was tired all the time. The kind of tiredness that felt like I had taken the "faith can move mountains" philosophy a bit too literally. In late July, I stopped working entirely. Another non-disclosure was signed. I was too unwell to fight anything. All the previous engagements I was in, were unfortunately manned by a collection consisting of the standard of perfection: correctly colored, acceptably sculptured, unmarred, unscathed and unflawed individuals. I didn't stand a chance. You should work like you are lucky, but will be treated in line with your flaws when it's convenient. They couldn't understand why I was moving so slowly and being so inefficient. Despite my explaining, it wasn't enough. Even I didn't know at the time what was wrong. So I accepted that I was inefficient, lazy, or any other words used to describe me then. It was enough reason to cut the cord. If I can't perform, I serve no purpose. Still the audacity of existing in such misfortune and expecting consideration for some opportunity in your limited resources. That "what do you have to offer?" question gets a little harder to answer.

One morning in early August 2020 it got a bit much. It was the point at which I realized I was going downhill, fast, and felt as though doctors weren't determined to find the problem. Unfortunately, there was also Covid. The frequent asthma attacks, fevers, night sweats, malaise, insomnia, hypersomnia, sinus inflammations and cyst, hyperacidity, intense backaches, palpitations ... the list was long. On this day, it felt "a little worse than normal". I had a "normal" level of pain and fatigue. Which, now as the suffering continues to subside, I can determine was a healthy person's 13 on a scale of 1-10. I would document my pain levels and dosages of drugs I was taking daily; what I tried to do to improve my ability to function. 4 completely full journals filled with pain, anger, fatigue, defeat. I wrote declarations in my journal stating that my body should be dedicated to medical research. Perhaps I could finally be diagnosed in death. Maybe there would be irrefutable evidence that my pain was real. I also hadn't realized my memory and cognitive function were deteriorating. That August morning, as one of my best friends who had stuck with me through all this crazy, was picking me up to take me back to the hospital, I was climbing up a small hill to get to the highway. I mentally aimed to lift my leg to climb but it didn't cooperate. I fell. But assuming that I slid since it had rained the night before and it was slightly muddy. That moment stuck in my mind though. When we got to the hospital, all my vitals were way off. There was an indication of a high level of sepsis. The doctor asked me why it took so long to come to look for treatment. I told her I assumed it was PMS. That was how my PMS presented itself at the time. In that level of severity. They were one and the same thing. I had been telling them about it over and over for many months. I could no longer tell the difference between something being wrong, and my experience "normal" symptoms. My sister had to keep reminding me that there is nothing normal about pain. I had been gaslit so much that I had stopped seeking help when I genuinely needed it. I got repeated hits on infections and was administered more steroids. I felt my legs disconnect from the rest of my body, and suddenly they were flimsy strings carrying the weight of my body. I couldn't walk anymore. Not on my own. Then, one day I woke up to feeling my body burst into flames of excruciating pain streaming through every single nerve and muscle in my body. I felt as though I was on fire and being electrocuted at the same time while soaked in acid. I was screaming and rolling on the floor begging for death. Who was I supposed to call? The current treatment was obviously not working. After a great deal of research (i.e. google searches) from my sister, who went to immense heights to carry me through, we went to see an endocrinologist. Long story short, I was experiencing an adrenal crisis, high blood sugar, heading into diabetic ketoacidosis, tachycardia, palpitations, high bp, impaired cognitive function, intense pain, and fatigue. I was suddenly taken off a high dose of steroids and a course of painkillers I was on as well. Adding to the list of medical mistakes. The pain and fatigue went up so high that I could feel the full dead weight of my body. My spine felt like it turned into jelly and suddenly my entire waist was a blob of hot wax. I could no longer hold up the upper part of my body. I needed some form of support to walk, sit, bend. I dreaded having to move any part of me. Electrical shock impulses were everywhere reacting to my every move and thought. It was rogue lightning burning through all of me. I was a complete train wreck. That was the peak to a gruesome recovery journey. I couldn't do anything, for myself. My body overreacted to everything: hunger, anxiety, breathing, literally anything. My dreadlocks fell off one by one. I would get flares almost every two weeks where the pain would increase and would not respond to any meds. I lived and breathed pain all day every day. I felt as though it was wrong that any such level of pain should be capable of existing.

The world continues on and people still had an expectation for me to tone down on "my issues" to accommodate some part of them. Some event that was so important. Some sign that this will end to make them feel better about it. I lost people in my circles because I had quite literally no ability to even consider their needs. I had to learn to say no and get used to the end result. I watched people move forward while I couldn't even hold myself up long enough to give myself an insulin shot. It hurt in so many ways and for so long, I became an entirely different person. I lived in excruciating horrible pain every single second of every single day, month after month after month, treatment after treatment, doctor after doctor. I caved to the pressure of needing to get a job. I think in a sense, they didn't want to have to think about needing to support me long term. You know how you run from this one person who's always broke or just ... afflicted? No one ever wants to be that guy. But I became that guy. I had to own it. Find a way to make it look easy even when it wasn't. Find a way to convince anyone that didn't know the story that there was no story.

August 2021, enters. Pain levels had decreased but were still at a crippling high. I measured my progress in terms of being able to do the dishes (while having to take a seat every 2 minutes), take a short walk, going up and down the stairs. Those were my major milestones as of August this year. I believe my executive assistant guardian angel does a terrible job at putting events together in my life. I won a Bootcamp scholarship and got a job in mid-August in the same week. I knew I didn't feel ready. I was still quite unwell. But I couldn't back it up with a solid medical theory as to why I was still in crippling pain. So if I didn't know it, how could I discuss it with them? What would I have told them? Society expected that I should be doing better. My tests were beginning to range within normal levels. The same old "you're stressed" started coming back to the table. I hate that statement so much I will never admit it to a doctor in the future. To them, especially if you have the list and have lived the life I have lived, that on its own is a validation of why I am in excruciating pain. So I struggled. Immensely. I would get memory blackouts and full-day dissociation. Pain, pain and more pain. I worked from my bed. Some days I'd attempt to dress up to look "normal" to them. They didn't know I could spend anything from 5-16 hours straight in pain that wouldn't respond to all the double doses I would take. And that I worked through it. I tried everything I could to deliver the 9 hours of work. Right before the classes began. The colleagues towards the end of my tenure would mention they couldn't review my work because "it's in python", and I got a number of "you've done nothing for a whole month" and "I don't care...I don't care ....I don't care". About a month before these words were spoken, I was finally diagnosed with something that made sense of my pain and why it peaked at random without triggers. I saw a neurologist and neuropsychiatrist and they both diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. My brain had retained the memory of the worst pain imaginable to man and constantly resorted to it as a normal existing state of affairs. On very many occasions I nearly overdosed on pain meds. But I ensured to write in one of my diary entries that if I died from that, I was just trying to take the pain away. I love the people in my life and I would have wanted for them to be at peace and in great understanding that I did all I could to live for them even when I had none of my own reasons for existing for myself. That had been my reality. So when a couple of privileged collective components felt inconvenienced by my newly diagnosed disability, the vague termination letter was served. When that situation occurred in the past for the same reason, more than anything, I have been most sad to have grossly misrepresented the other group of fabulous she's and they's that are out there changing the world one rainbow at a time. I wanted so badly to kick ass and name names. Trust that I gave the best I could with what I had. It just wasn't enough. And I have the full list. I am limited whether I fight reality or not. I can speculate in retrospect that I was fired for being legally disabled that was mistaken for inefficiency. Fibromyalgia is classified as a disability because it limits ones ability to function immensely. Once I got the confirmation after a few conversations and a multitude of tests with my doctors, I had to now make a decision on what to do as a smart and responsible employee. I didn't know how to reassure the right colored collection that the maximum productivity I would aim for and afford would be enough for them. I had to adjust my expectations from waiting to fully recover to learning to live with a disability. Even saying it was difficult. It was already insufficient enough for them and they did what they had to do. The way it's done is comically similar. I can sense the guilt occupying the dead silence in the call. I don't know what I'm usually expected to say. I respond in one-word answers so we can get to the adios part faster. It's also not my responsibility to manage their emotions. I have my own plate.

So what comes next? When one has experienced the magnitude of horror I have experienced, one learns to move on faster. I look at what I have gained after that experience, what I still have left, and what future opportunities I still have or can improve myself to acquire. I learned to live and work in adversity. I learned to stand my ground and refuse to compromise on my quality of delivery. Different companies prioritize quantity and quality differently. I was trained to uphold quality to a high standard for a scalable future. I now know the best hours to work, how many of them I can keep my back up and steady when I have the most focus. I learned to slot in chores and still rest at the end of the day. They sound basic, but nothing is basic for me anymore. Despite their attempts, they couldn't bash my self-esteem because I had shown far greater resilience and determination than they could have been aware of. It matters that I know it, I celebrate it, I reward it... I will keep training until I no longer need crutches. I keep asking for help like a person who acknowledges my own shortcomings. And if I can no longer use speed as my selling point, then I acquire rare, relevant, and prestigious skills. Then I can be the one to provide my conditions for working. I got that letter a few hours ago, it's already time for a new chapter.

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