T-Minus 3

Sometimes, we have to run away in order to clear our heads and put ourselves together as best we can. The important thing, is that we return stronger than when we left. ― T.J. Klune, The Extraordinaries 

What is this about?  

After my trip into the ‘wilderness’ where I had intended on ending my life, my mental life went to hell in a handbasket. I found I was unable to concentrate at work. I lost approximately 15 pounds due to not eating much. I let the depression continue to kill me off slowly. Mission accomplished.   

While I was busy killing it at work, in my normal fashion of closing issues in one fell swoop, one of my colleagues Instant Messaged me via our corporate chat tool. This person was admonishing me to save some work for the rest of everyone else on our team. We both chuckled it off, as we were aware of the levels of sarcasm at play.   

While he was innocently reaching out to me, it turned out to be a boon for my mental health. He was one of the few people who took voluntary furlough mid-way through the pandemic. Our company sent out emails asking who might be willing to accept multiple variants of voluntary furloughs to help save money. I quickly sprung upon asking him how that worked out for him. He informed me it was one of the best decisions he made. Many benefits availed themselves to his mental well-being.   

We chatted for a bit. I kept my recent story to myself. Once I had finished chatting with him, I quickly reached out to another colleague, who also took a voluntary furlough. I polled him about his experience. He shared that he also benefited greatly from the time off. He confided in me that he had felt mentally burnt out from work.   

After speaking to two people at a very integral time, I reached out to our boss asking if the possibility of using furlough was an option. Our boss apologized that that option was no longer available to employees. He did, however, inform me that a Leave of Absence (LoA) may be available to me. Citing that some of them even continue to pay while on the LoA.   

We both scoured our Human Resources internal site for information. I was then reintroduced to FMLA, as an option in my particular situation. For those of you not in the U.S.A, FMLA is – Family Medical Leave Act. This is a protection to help caregivers of family members stricken with ailments that prevent them from working. FMLA affords protections of still receiving pay for their time off.   

Initially, when I parsed through the internal website, it looked like I would need to apply for the FMLA through the company, and then work with an insurance company to provide payment at 65%, using something called: Short Term Disability insurance. I looked more, then saw something that cited 80% pay, and thought, wow, if I get this, this will be nice. When I finally spoke with an HR representative, I found out our company had implemented a new program of which I would receive full pay for 6 weeks.   

I worked with my therapist, who submitted my doctor’s referral for needing time off from work. This leads us to the title of this article. I finally got all the necessary paperwork taken care of. Then it was determining logistics of when the time would start. Working with the HR Rep, I tweaked the time to start the following week.   

Finally, to the T-Minus 3 Completing Work section…  

T-Minus 3 refers to the NASA countdowns for sending objects to space. I was anxious. I was depressed. I was still weighing and balancing, and then counterbalancing the right I had to continue to live on this planet. I looked briefly at a map, as I wanted to spend time hitting areas of our nation I had never been before. My ‘wilderness’ took place in one of my happy places in a small northern town in my state. I have so many places I would like to see, that now is one of the best times to go.   

I intended to blaze through a handful of National Parks with my bitch of a dog, Ellie. My perfect pint-sized passenger. Ellie needed her nails trimmed and her anal-sac cleaned out. This is a common thing with German Shepherd (hybrid) breeds. My trust issues extend to Ellie’s veterinarian office. Oddly enough, I am patronizing the very same Vet Hospital that my mother used to use when she ran the pet store I grew up in.   

I found Ellie’s vet when I still had Spirit. Ellie just dove-tailed into his care. Ellie’s Dr. Is very understanding of my needs to allow Ellie’s animality to shine through. We work together well when wellness checks are conducted on Ellie’s body. He has me hold her, grab her muzzle while he checks her ears, eyes, and mouth. A person like this wins my trust every time, understanding our needs.   

There was an opening for the next Monday, the day on which my FMLA Leave would be active. I booked the time for Ellie to get ‘dolled up.’ I spent the rest of my day trying to remain focused on getting all of my work done. I hate leaving snarls or nasty messes for my colleagues. I also assured my customers that I would be out for 6 weeks, but they could reach out once I am back.   

I take my job seriously. Almost too seriously. If I were paid 10 dollars an hour, I would give 30 dollars an hour of effort, because I know no other way to operate. I do not like leaving my customers in a lurch, nor my colleagues with shit. Do you know the reason why I am like this? Because I give an absolute fuck about who I am, what my reputation is and means to people, and want to perpetuate accountability by being honest and transparent.   

I complete my tasks early. I reach out to some colleagues that I got along with, that I would be gone for a while. I completed all the tasks my boss had requested of me. Then I waited patiently to clock off. It was tedious, but I kept parsing through my mind regarding any loose ends. Finally, the time came, I clocked off. Not the start of a vacation, but the start of time for self-reflection, healing, mental well-being, and communing with my family out west.   

Finally, to the T-Minus 3 Completing Spreadsheet section…  

Once off the clock, I shut down my computer, made sure all ancillary connected devices were also shut down. I then checked my compiled spreadsheet of all the necessary items I would need. Multiple tabs, multiple categories, such a useful tool to hone packing up for a big trip for Ellie and me. I do not necessarily geek out on spreadsheets, but my propensity for technology certainly aids my planning of big ideas.   

Earlier in the week, I reached out to personal clients of mine to inform them I would be gone for a while too. Alerting them that I would not be able to provide hands-on support while away. Even though that wasn’t a spreadsheet line, it was certainly ticked off task. Again, cannot leave loose ends. Communication is key.   

Going over all the categories in the spreadsheet, making sure I have everything I needed/wanted. If I forgot anything, regardless of how mundane, a new item was added. I couldn’t leave the details to chance. These spreadsheets have become an important part of my planning process. I use spreadsheets to outline I.T. projects and other big operations. The finest of details all presented so that I do not forget. It has become who I am.   

Even though the last month has been toilsome sleeping, eating, keeping a healthy mind, I took my medications and melatonin to help induce sleep. Even though I wake up in the middle of the night, I have Ellie by my side, to comfort me and help me feel safe, and vice versa. Getting a good night’s sleep has been difficult since the separation and the visit to the ‘wilderness.’   

I reached out to my friends via chat utilities either on my phone or my computer. Letting everyone know who would be impacted by my visit that my details were finalized. Everybody out west and local were all happy that this trip was materializing. They knew the importance of my sanity, the need to clear my head, and the bleaching of my mind in other wildernesses, namely National Parks.   

I will close here. I struggled to get to sleep with so many thoughts. So many new people to encounter. So many less-than-ideal scenarios of which Ellie would rely on my protection. It induced more stressors, but in a refreshing way. My life MUST change, it JUST has to. Whatever has been working until this moment, can no longer. I’ve got to clear my head, purge the toxicity, and find a reason to live. More to come as I process this journey one day at a time…  

As always, I welcome any constructive criticism, or complementary theories, analogies, anecdotes. I would love to hear if you find these edicts of challenge useful or utter horseshit. Similar to the ’90s when the catchphrase, ‘Be Kind, Rewind’ was hailed as a marketing genius. I need to come up with one that invites you to either subscribe, via WordPress or email, like posts or even comment on posts. Immediate feedback is useful for anyone. Thank you very much for reading through all of this drivel. Be well, stay safe, AND stay sane!  

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