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June 18, 2012 12:43 PM   Subscribe

My clinical depression is getting worse and I think I need to quit my job, but really need the income. I'm in Massachusetts.

Medical stuff: I've been depressed since puberty and it is well documented. PTSD for the past 7 years. I've been going to the same psych clinic (teaching hospital, so a couple of different doctors) for 4 years now. I'd been doing well on antidepressants and using what I learned in CBT, but things have been going downhill for the past 6 months. By downhill I mean "incapable of getting out of bed in the morning" and "having panic attacks on the train."

Work stuff: I've been here for 4 years. Out of sick days and down to 3 vacation days. My doctor wrote a note to HR saying that I needed to work from home so I could make some medication changes/reduce stress, and HR said the company's "culture is not conducive to a work from home model." (It is totally feasible for me to work from home; my company is very old-fashioned.)

So, in short, I'm growing more depressed by the minute and I need to get better but my job is absolutely miserable and my company is not willing to work with me. I can't afford to take unpaid medical leave. What can I do? Can I collect unemployment if I quit for medical reasons? Do I file for disability? I just need a little time to get back on my feet!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Here is the SSA's page on disability benefits. Here is their info for MA state.
posted by griphus at 12:48 PM on June 18, 2012


First, have your doctor say you have a disability and that working from home is a reasonable accomodation. Simultaneously, start a disability case, that may take a while anyway.

Read up on what the Americans with Disabilities Act says about depression/anxiety issues, and what a reasonable accomodation is.

Push comes to shove, get an employment lawyer to help you with this.

You have a right to an accomodation.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Er, sorry, should have been more specific. Getting on SSI/Disability/food stamps/etc. is a long and arduous process. Filing for disability takes a while and chances are if you've been recently employed, you'll have to appeal and it's just nothing on which you should depend in the near future. So quitting your job to go on disability doesn't really work.

There must be non-profits and social services in MA that cater to people with disabilities in your situation. If you were in NY, I'd be able to give you names, but I can assure you there's places you can show up, tell your story, and they'll try their best to work out a plan for you.
posted by griphus at 12:57 PM on June 18, 2012


Here are the Unemployment Requirements for Massachusetts.

In the short term (and I only suggest this because you sound like you feel very trapped), could you perhaps try walking 30 minutes a day? This has been shown to help considerably with depression (and I know others in similar situations who have been helped by it). Walking is crazy effective at helping the brain work better, and the time will help you order your thoughts as you plan for what comes next.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:23 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do not quit. Do the bare minimum you can do right now--if you get fired, you can collect unemployment. This is a good thing, because as a fellow sufferer I can tell you that money problems won't help you feel better. And, although IANAL, it seems like you'd have a better case for disability if you do it this way.

Also: "Not conducive to work from home model" -- christ, what rigid, short-sighted asshats. I hate that they're making OP's situation worse unnecessarily.
posted by scratch at 1:26 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Very sorry to hear that. Definitely get a lawyer to help you with the details. I would also suggest, if you like, to read this book. You will see many similiar examples. The rest is up to you
posted by pakora1 at 1:29 PM on June 18, 2012


"...-if you get fired, you can collect unemployment."

This is by no means necessarily true. You'll need to prove you lost the job through no fault of your own if you want to collect UI, and it's an uphill battle to prove your dismissal was disability-related if you get canned for poor performance.
posted by griphus at 1:35 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


This could be a case where it's worthwhile to have a lawyer write a letter on your behalf. You're not entitled to the accommodation you'd most like, or the one that's most convenient for you, but just one that is "reasonable" and allows you to perform the essential functions of the job. They've essentially told you that your requested accommodation--work from home--isn't one they're obligated to provide. While that may or may not be true, there is a benefit from getting legal help in this case. Companies really don't like to get letters from lawyers saying their clients aren't being accommodated. This puts a lot of pressure on them to actually think about whether they're complying with the law rather than just brushing off your request. So your odds of getting what you want increase. You likely will have to pay the lawyer for the time it takes to write the letter, though.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:40 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I live in Massachusetts, and have a close friend who's a lawyer (and owes me a favor). If you can't afford the expense of a local attorney, I'd be happy to enquire whether she could write a threatening letter on your behalf. (Although she's based out of CT so it might have limited effectiveness.)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:46 PM on June 18, 2012


having suffered through debilitating bouts of depression myself, i honestly don't see that you working from home is going to improve your situation. if your condition is such that you can barely get out of bed now, you won't be getting out of bed to work, even at home, because there is even less pressure for you to do so. is there any way that you can take a paid medical or disability leave? you would at least get paid a portion of your salary and won't have to work at all.
posted by violetk at 3:01 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wanted to step in and agree with violetk; I am an advocate for depressed workers at my workplace and I work with the employer on reasonable accomidations. I have never seen a Psychiatrist recommend a depressed person who is struggling to get out of bed work from home (or have days off, for that matter); that is just a short-term solution to a long term problem. Many employers recognise that giving a depressed worker time off/work from home ends up with the person never returning. So your employer may actually be trying to help you keep your job by encouraging you to come in each day.

The only time I have seen time off approved is for in-patient residental care. Have you investigated what options you have there? I would also agree that disability/unemployemnt is not a reasonable expectation right now; if you think work is hard just wait till you have to face all the paperwork and appeals necesary, not to mention months or years without any payments coming in.

Do you have other resources like friends or family you can lean on right now? Because now is the time to call in all your favours.
posted by saucysault at 4:42 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's great that you've been doing well on antidepressants until the last 6 months. Sounds like your current meds are not doing their job. I would see your psych-med doctor as soon as possible and frankly explain your mood. If you can get on a different med that relieves your depression, you will be well on your way to resolving your other life difficulties. Best of luck with this.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:11 PM on June 18, 2012


Telecommuting as an ADA accomodation is covered comprehensively at the EEOC website. The short answer is "maybe."
posted by MattD at 6:10 PM on June 18, 2012


The disease it telling you to quit. The disease is what is making it seem like that's a good decision. I know this is easy for me to say, but you have to 1- tough it out, and 2- work with your doctor about finding a better treatment strategy.

I often get SAD as the days get shorter. The way I get out of this is to sleep 12 hours a day. If that means I have to go to sleep an hour after I get home, then that's what I do. That way, I am literally sick of sleeping by the time I have to wake up. I may not want to go to work, but at least I am not being trapped in bed by the siren song of sleep/escape.
posted by gjc at 7:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have been struggling with major depression (at times suicidal) for roughly 35 years now, and my experience is that unemployment/inactivity is one of the fastest paths down into the Pit of Despair that exists. Finding an accommodation with your employer, whether it's work-from-home or judicious and appropriate use of FMLA leave, is likely to be better for your mental health in the long run than quitting will be.

Very best wishes. On a side note, not focused on the practical issues of your current question, you might pick up one of the books by Zen teacher Cheri Huber. I recommend her work rather a lot when it's appropriate because I truly believe that if I hadn't found her work (first The Depression Book and then There is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate) I would have attempted suicide by now.

Something that you won't be able to truly believe on a gut level now, but which I ask you to take on faith: the voices in your head that are telling you how worthless you are? Those voices are LYING. They are FALSE. They're inside your head and they sound incredibly persuasive, but they are LYING and FALSE and WRONG. You are not worthless. And if you do cry on your pasta? So what?! Maybe that's what you need to do at that moment.

If we were in the same area code, I'd stroke your shoulder reassuringly while reminding you that the voices are lying and that you (yes, you) are a valuable and worthwhile human being, and that the world would be a plainer and drabber place without you in it. Then I'd go make you a fresh plate of pasta.
posted by Lexica at 8:21 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Agree with referral to EEOC factsheet on telecommuting. And -- I appreciate that you cannot afford an unpaid leave of absence. However -- it is a better economic position for you to have a job even if you need to take an unpaid leave of absence and/or periodic unpaid sick days. This unpaid time off is a reasonable accommodation (and is also required by the FMLA if your employer is large).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:59 PM on June 18, 2012


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