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Posts Tagged ‘retail’

I’m so glad that I won’t have to go back to where I work unless I want to. I was thinking about getting a job there again after this quarter, but looking back on my experiences with management makes me question my thought process.

Most workplaces won’t do more than they’re legally required to accommodate mentally ill workers, but that didn’t make it any less frustrating to deal with. When I asked if HR could try to give me a more stable schedule (rather than working 12 hours one week and 28 the next, which screwed with my bipolar and furthered my stress because I didn’t know how much money I’d be making for the month), the scheduling manager talked to me like I was stupid while saying that she would “try”. Nothing changed until I threatened to quit because of the unpredictable hours. Thank god I was one of the better workers in my department or my ultimatum wouldn’t have worked.

Even after having a bipolar breakdown because they were screwing up my sleep patterns by working me til 11pm they wouldn’t stop scheduling me those shifts until I finally got a doctor’s note. They contemplated firing me when I called in for 2 days because I couldn’t make myself get out of bed after my breakdown even though they knew it was caused by my bipolar reaction to the late shifts. Even though management is supposed to keep health histories confidential word somehow spread that I had bipolar and that gave the other workers reason to resent me for them having to pick up my shifts for a bit.

I know that my workplace is within its rights to do most of these things but it still feels cruel. How can they not understand that it was actually dangerous to push me so close to the edge? Koios was about ready to march down to my store and have a “talk” with management after he saw just how affected I was by the wonky hours, but I asked him not to. It would have only made things worse. I contemplating checking myself into a hospital after my freakout triggered by the holiday hours because I was so frayed around the edges that I couldn’t trust myself. The only reason that I didn’t was because I couldn’t afford it. I had rent to pay; I couldn’t lose earning power and possibly my job by checking into a hospital for who knows how long. I was also afraid of the stigma. How would my coworkers treat me after I came back (if management took me back, that is)? I knew that word would get out that I checked into the loony bin, even though it technically shouldn’t. Would management stiff me with hours or fire me because they couldn’t depend on me? Would they not want me to work on the sales floor, lest I go crazy on a customer?

I don’t know. My store was no better or worse than any other retail place, but that’s what makes it sad. The only jobs I’ll be able to get while I’m in school will be retail and I don’t know if I could deal with all of this shit again. I don’t want to put myself in debt with student loans so early in my education, but I don’t know if I could go back to being treated like I wasn’t even human. I know it was nothing personal because they treated all the employees like that, but it was especially hard on me.

The only good thing about working in retail was it toughened me up. I used to not be able to say no to customers and other workers. I was often guilted into giving customers a better price or taking on someone else’s work because I just wanted the uncomfortable guilt at the thought of saying no to go away. Now I’m better able to look out for myself, because no one else at my workplace was going to. I still have a hard time saying no to customers and being firm with them, but I’ve gotten a lot better. That’s the only thing I can thank my workplace for, but it was such a hugely important lesson.

Whatever I decide to do later, I’m glad I’ll have a break from retail hell. I don’t think that there is any job that is perfectly accommodating for people with bipolar, but I know that retail is far from it. Maybe I won’t ever have to work another retail job again, but even if I do I’ve learned where my limits are with bipolar and work. At least I’m taking something away from this, even if it’s just a list of How To Prevent Management From Fucking Me.

-Ashes

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I will not be working retail as of next Monday! I’ve been working at my store for over 2 years, and while I have a love/hate relationship I think I’ll still miss it. Eventually I’m sure that the nostalgia will fade to gratitude for not having to work in that shit-hole, but I’ll miss my coworkers at first.

I’m starting school on Jan. 2nd I’m sort of scared. My high school was part-time; I only went for 3 hours a day. I’m nervous about having a full course load for the first time in 4 years. I choose my high school because of my bipolar. I didn’t have teacher-led classes, instead each student would start a learning plan at whatever point in the year and generally had two months to complete it. That gave me some leeway; if I had a bad week with my medication side effects or situational issues I would be able to make it up without too much fuss. It wasn’t like the teachers would bitch at me if I didn’t turn in work for a week and I wouldn’t “fail” the class until the due date had passed. I’m worried that I won’t be able to cope with the community college course load. All of my friends tell me not to worry, but I do anyway.

Luckily for me I have my dad’s GI Bill benefits to help me with tuition and housing costs, but I’m thinking about going back to work after this quarter. I’m planning on becoming a high school teacher, so I’ll have to take 5 years of school rather than the normal 4 for a BA. I’d rather save my GI benefits for my really expensive schooling rather than blowing it on community college, but I wanted to take this quarter to get used to a full load. I’ll probably apply back at my place of work in three months if my bipolar lets me, but I wanted to make sure that I could do it before trying to work as well.

-Ashes

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Thanks to some weird scheduling, I haven’t had to work since Monday night. I work at a big box chain store, in the apparel and jewelry departments. During the holiday season I certainly appreciate some stroke of luck that led to four days off in a row, even if it’s at the expense of my bank account.

Working during the holidays can be a new kind of hell for bipolar people in retail. Working crazy hours that throw off sleep schedules, demanding customers that can tweak guilt complexes, breakneck speed that can leave you feeling manic, and unrealistic expectations for productivity can bring out bipolar triggers like nothing else. I’ve found a few ways to deal with all of these things however.

1. If you do the best work that you can, it’s harder for guilt trips about productivity from management to take hold.

2. Take any and all breaks on time. Knowing that the day will be split up in predictable and routine ways helps me to manage my bipolar triggers by giving me back some control over the day. It lets me say to myself “I only have to hold it together for 20 more minutes! Then it’s time for me to relax”.

3. Don’t take on other people’s work. I’m tempted to try to help my fellow coworkers out by helping them with a task, but during the holidays you have to look out for yourself.

4. Get a note from your psychiatrist of psychologist if you’re scheduled hours that throw off your sleep schedule. Sleep is one of theĀ  most important variables in keeping bipolar under control. Ask for your doctor to write a note explaining that you can’t work past X’oclock if necessary. It’s made my life so much easier. I don’t have to worry about having a breakdown in front of my coworkers because I’m scheduled to work til 11PM.

5. Have a mantra. I normally stay away from advice like this, but ever since my first holiday season in retail I found myself saying “Breathe in, breathe out”. It just helps me let go of irritating customers and coworkers. My mantra has become sort of a motto at my workplace; if we see another worker looking overwhelmed we tell them to breathe in and breathe out.

I hope this list helps you a bit should you also work in retail. Wish me luck as I go back from my mini-vacation!

-Ashes

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