Part II cont... How depression can really fuck up your life
Let’s fast forward now to July 20th when I returned from my daughter’s wedding, wishing I had taken more time off. The dean’s assistant called me into his office before I even had a chance to sit down and change my shoes. We had a new dean start June 1, and he had not given me the time of day in 7 weeks. Now I know why. You don’t get to know someone you’re about to axe. Before I sat down (with my notepad and paper to take notes…Ha!), he said, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news…” After that I didn’t hear much. His assistant was there to serve as a witness in case I went postal, I guess. I heard him say, “I assure you that this is a budget cut, not a performance issue.” He let me know that I could be COBRA’d into benefits, but I almost laughed at that because if you’ve ever dealt with COBRA, you know you can’t afford this option when you’ve just lost your job. I remember he said I would get paid for 2 more weeks. That was my severance, and I assumed the last of my benefits, too. I was handed a packet of papers and told I could come back later to clean off my desk if it was too hard now with people in the office. WHAT PEOPLE? The asshole hadn’t shown up yet that morning, and the woman I had driven back and forth to work who was walking in the summer months hadn’t shown up to work. Overslept as usual while I held down the fort. I suspect they both knew what was coming and were too chicken to show up.
So I did what I knew how to do on Tuesday: send out thank you letters… because who else would do that? Halfway through, my printing privileges were cut off. I fought back the tears because I knew if I started, there was no stopping. Every few minutes the dean’s assistant came back to me to rip another epaulet off my coat like they do in the French Foreign Legion. “Can I have your ID badge?” “We need your keys.” “I have to get your procard.” Why didn’t she have a check list of things she needed and come to me ONCE, not several times. I texted 2 friends and my sister and kept a stiff upper lip while I cleaned things off while waiting for my printing rights to be restored so I could finish the 60 letters to donors. Eventually, I got the cart so I could take my things out. (Amazing what we amass in such a short time.) I filled out the paperwork that included my passwords and contact information and left it with the dean’s assistant. As I started down the hall, a good friend (who had joined choir with me) saw me and asked if I needed help. I did not want any, but she insisted. She ran down a floor while I took the elevator and waited with my things while I went to get my car. I didn’t dare start to cry, and I did not want to hug this friend good bye for fear I would, but again she insisted. I jumped in my car and sobbed all the way home, scared out of my gourd, dejected, humiliated, depressed, angry, frightened, mortified. The pieces were not coming together yet, but they would little by little.
But first I dropped a note off in the mailbox of my former boss who had decimated my character. I thanked her (in my sarcastic way) for making the last 3 weeks of my time there the most unbearable, humiliating time of my life. I assumed that everyone knew about my review when, in fact, they probably were privy to my lay-off and felt uncomfortable around me. But why the silent treatment? But more importantly, I taped her house key to the note and said, “Do not fear I will come to your house any more with your key. And you might have to get someone else to scoop your cats’ poop when you’re out of town.” Yep, that’s right. I watched her cats when she was out of town.
I took to my room in the dark and crashed. I gave myself that day to feel sorry for myself, no, that week before I would pull myself up and start looking for work. After all, I had 2 weeks’ pay! The guy I am/was seeing at the time came by after work so worried and upset for me. When he wanted to take me to the local bar, I suggested that I have a glass of wine and he be the designated driver. He looked at me like I was explaining quantum equations. Nope, he started ordering drinks for himself because, like I said, he was so worried and upset. I shook my head, knowing I had better find me another man. One who doesn’t drink this time.
I sat in that dark bedroom with Dr. Oz, The Ghost Whisperer, Oprah, and Dr. Phil for the rest of the week. (The shows, not the actual people) I did sign up for unemployment but thought they would deny me until my 2 weeks 'pay was over. Oh well. I got a letter from The Division of Employment Security the next week to call because of a glitch. I assumed it was the 2-weeks’ pay when, in fact, they wanted to know whether I was faculty. If I were faculty at the university, my July lay-off might become an August rehire so they wouldn’t pay out. But since I was staff, that wasn’t going to happen. I remember saying, “Is there anything else I need to do to get benefits started?” and the woman saying, “No, you are good to go.” Stupid, stupid, stupid. It never dawned on me that she meant…”in regards to this query” because I interpreted it to mean that I didn’t need to do anything in order to get unemployment benefits. That stupid decision made in the height of depression cost me over thousands of dollars.
A few weeks later I got an e-mail through facebook from the dean’s assistant. Do you remember I said I left my contact information with the office before I left? Do you realize that having worked there for 2 years, everyone had my personal e-mail and cell #? This woman and I weren’t even facebook friends and this is how she contacted me??? I know tons of people who choose not to get messages through facebook so would have never received this very important e-mail. She mentioned that payroll had not received my signed whatever form from that packet I was given on my last day. I never even looked at that packet that I thought merely explained my stupid COBRA benefits that I would never be able to afford. So I e-mailed payroll and explained the problem and assured them I would get this signed piece of paper to them ASAP. Apparently, it was something about not suing them for being laid off and they couldn’t give me that 2 weeks of pay without it. Stupid stupid stupid. Again, when she was coming to me constantly that day to ask for things to be returned, why didn’t she point out that I had to sign something before I left rather than wait 3 weeks now for the signature to get paid? With that done, I would get that 2-weeks of pay but “we” had missed the cut-off date for it to be done expeditiously. Another fuck up, but I move on. I cannot sleep and often stay up till 5 every morning. I wake up every day around noon or 1 even though everyone assures me I should go exercise and get out in the sub every day. Waking up to watch Dr. Oz, which is on at 1 here, was my goal every day. I would apply for jobs which is done entirely on-line these days, never forcing anyone to get out into the sunshine or mingle with people. I always got dressed and always made my bed, but short of that, I often found myself in a darken room day after day, too depressed to get out of my bedroom. It wasn’t the lay-off. It was that damn review that did me in.
I did not get a call for an interview until week #8. And remember, I have never once gotten onto the unemployment website to report my time. Luckily, I was smart enough to keep accurate records of who I contacted, for what position, when, and their response. However, that meant nothing in the end. Sometime in September I noticed that money had reached my bank account. I stupidly thought that it was unemployment when it turned out to be that 2 weeks’ pay that was late in coming because of that signature I owed them. This is important information. Halfway through October, I realize something is up and call The Office of Employment Security. That woman says my account had been closed because they hadn’t heard from me 28 days past my registering. WTF?? What have I done now?? I forgot or, in my depressed stupor, never updated my status weekly. (I had some savings that was I was using to pay my bills.) The woman and I were in shock and she scrambled to try to save me by offering for me to request my unemployment benefits retroactively. She sent me the forms dating back to July 20th in hopes I could log all my contacts and would get paid. And remember that log I kept? Thank God, because I now had weeks and weeks of paperwork to fill out to get paid retroactively. I did so gladly in hopes it would work. Long story, short. It did not. I was denied. Stupid stupid stupid. I can repeal, but I haven’t figured that out.