Sunday, January 25, 2009

"My Life"

Because Aunt B cusses sometimes!

Dear Aunt Babz,

To whom it may concern,

I need advice, and up until now I can't seem to find logical answers to my dilemma. It concerns my job and my health, and I am almost at the end of my rope. I will explain.

I am a 52 yr. old male, college educated, and work in the maintenance dept. of a local hospital as a maintenance mechanic. I am responsible for repairing and maintaining all the machinery in the hospital and it's surrounding facilities. Among them being all housekeeping equipment, all laundry equipment, some kitchen equipment, hospital beds, exhaust fans, water pumps, air handlers (heating and cooling), compressors, and sump pumps. This list is so overwhelming to me it has begun to severely stress me out. My blood pressure is out of control, although I am on medication, my weight has increased by about 50 lbs. since starting this job, and I feel trapped with nowhere to go. I have frequent migraines, and in fact today I called in sick because of it. I have missed a lot of work due to these headaches, and if it weren't for the Family Medical Leave Act, I would likely have lost my job by now. Last year I missed 43 days due to severe headaches, and I have missed 4 days this year (month) already.

In the beginning these responsibilities were split between me and another mechanic, but in March the other person is going to retire and our supervisor has pretty much given all of his work to me as well. What makes this job even more stressful is that when it was "given" to me I was totally unqualified to do the job. I was literally forced to take the position. Our hospital has a union, in which I am a part of, and in 1998 there was a strike over benefits and other issues. During this strike certain employees must have done things on the picket line that didn't agree with management, so when the strike ended they felt they had a "score" to settle with these employees. So once we were all back to work, the management began shuffling people around to get to the people they had targeted.

Jobs were eliminated, people were laid off, and in my case, I was called in to the boss' office and "strongly encouraged" to take another position (my current, mechanic job), which in his words it was "in my best interest" to take the job, otherwise my current position could be eliminated and I would be unemployed. Apparently I was "in the way" of a certain employee who had more seniority than I, but to get to them I had to be moved out of the way. I enjoyed my previous position, mostly because it had a lot less responsibility attached to it, although the pay was much less. Last year I made a little over $51,000, which isn't bad for a single person working in this particular area of the country. I have worked at this hospital for 29 years, and over those years my pay has increased steadily, and I have basically gone as far as I can go on the so-called "ladder of success" at this hospital. And I use the word "success" with tongue-in-cheek.

My health has suffered greatly while at this position, and I don't have to tell you how hard it would be to leave and find anything else that even comes close to my current income, especially with the current state of the economy in this country. I have considered selling everything I own, which in a lifetime one accumulates a certain amount of things as his/her career progresses. I have a home, 2 vehicles (car and truck), and live comfortably on my income.

So that is it in a nutshell. I don't know if I should quit, sell everything, and move into a small apartment, or do something more drastic. I have thought of suicide, and yes, I know that is pretty drastic. But at this time I don't think I could go that far, mostly because I have a dog that I absolutely adore and couldn't leave because she needs me. (ha ha) But I am desperately looking for a way out of this situation. The local job service suggested going back to school and learning another trade, but with me being 52 now, and probably being at least 54 or older when getting out of school, the chances of anyone wanting to hire a person in this advanced age and paying them very much would be very remote. So that idea doesn't seem logical..

I know it is a very complex problem, and I have struggled for a long time trying to come up with a solution. I have been to counseling, talked to my pastor, and even tried talking to my bosses about this. My bosses don't seem to care about my personal issues, and in my opinion they are just waiting on me to "crack". And I don't mind telling you that I feel I am getting close to a nervous breakdown, but I keep trying to fight it.

Sorry this is so long, but with all that is going on I couldn't have condensed the story to make any sense of it, so this is how it turned out.

What are your thoughts?


Dear Gary,

I am not 53, but I completely know what you are talking about, 100%. See here is a little insight into the realm of Xmichra’s real world: I hate my current position and it has been horrid on my health too. I had a very great position, worth a lot less money, before I took on this “assignment” and have regretted it almost every day since ( I think I was in shell shock the first week).

My job now is very stressful, very time consuming, and not at all where my passion is. I was in a very similar situation to you regarding the job offer, and sincerely wish I hadn’t taken it. I am currently on maternity leave, and thank the gods because this break is needed for me to figure out what I can do and can’t do (because like you, I do need money to live and this job has it).

I understand the dynamic of this economy (even though I do live in Canada, it is still affecting us as well) and the hesitancy to leave a stable and profitably employer. But when you get to the point where you are, and that is to say you would consider taking your own life as a way out, then you HAVE to think about solutions that albeit are scary to undertake, are necessary.

You mentioned that you didn’t feel schooling would be a good option, but I disagree. I know of quite a few people who have gone back to school in their later years to improve their knowledge (and resume) and have had success in finding a well paying job afterwards. There is something to be said for a person who has lived a life, held a job for over 20 years, can change and learn, and still enjoys learning. And that is definitely something that as a person who employees others, I would look at very positively. And I know others do as well. But if you don’t want to go back to school (which is fine) there is a bit of a crunch out there for work, so you would be thinking about “in the mean time” while you were unemployed. This may take a long time, so make sure that you can still remain comfortable while in transition.

I will ask though, have you seen the doctor about all this?? I am assuming that you are covered by health care (most union workers are) for things like long term disability. And with the amount of times you miss work due to headaches/migraines; you should be seeing a doctor every single time and getting that documented. You should also get things like weight gain and depression looked after. Seriously, if the job is that bad for your health and you feel like you cannot lose your job because of this economy so you have to go.... well you may want to look into getting a documented case for LTD. Just a suggestion.

Ultimately you want to make a choice here, and you know what it is. You don’t want to do this job anymore. So now you need a way out, that is good for your life. Because really, why would you want to commit suicide? You have the means to downgrade your living expenses and to leave the job, which would fix your situation to enjoy your life. And that is the point right? To enjoy your life. Sometimes we have to take drastic measures to ensure our own happiness and well being, and this is one situation where I think you have given ample amounts of thought into things, and you know what you would have to do in order to live well.

There will be no safety net, and you know this. So you need to rely on your own assets and skills. You can and will find another job (maybe not one as high paying) and you can downsize your expenses. You have the ability to try something new. You also have the right (check with your union on timing) to take an unpaid leave of absence to figure things out (usually for 3 months). So use your union for the better, take the chances you need to take, and get your life back!

Good Luck, and I hope you find your happiness again.


Dear Gary,

I pray I am given the very words to calm your Spirit. I can feel that you are at your wits end. I can also appreciate your effort in taking the time to write us here at Aunt B.

Just now, I caught myself reading Xmichra's answer(before I post and write to you), a no-no in my book but damn if I wasn't curious as to what she responded to you. I had to walk away from the computer so I wouldn't cheat. She does give sound advice especially in this niche, her specialty.

Momentarily, it will seem off the subject but I'd found out, rather recently, that my Orthopedic Surgeon, Richard S. Goodman, MD, JD,
has died. He was a renowned Long Island/NYC Clinical Chairman of Surgery at SABA University School of Medicine as well as his private practices. More importantly, to me at least, he was a good man whom I was quite fond of. I am rather devastated and at such a loss but I found myself recalling our many conversations.

I went to his office approximately once a month for follow-up and almost always engaged in rather stimulating conversation every time. I highly anticipated these visits and in fact would think about what I might ask him long before I drove to his office. The man was a wealth of knowledge, extremely blunt and forthright but I learned something from him every single time I went to his Practice in Smithtown, N.Y. I guess that it astounded me how he would take such time to talk with me when I knew he had people out in the office waiting for him.

The time before last, if I recall correctly, I'd asked him one of my "frustrated journalist" type questions; "Are you happy in your Profession?" Now, I should have said "Profession(s)" because he was not only a Doctor but an Attorney as well. Dr. Goodman was often called upon as an expert witness in numerous medical cases.

The Doctor was an older gentleman and he'd, obviously been around the block a time or two. He scoffed at my question. Basically, he explained, that the medical profession was certainly not nor did it resemble anything it used to be or how it was designed.

It is not verbatim but he stated, unequivocally that they, the Doctors/Specialists were plagued with paperwork and locked into certain criteria because of insurance regulations.

Less and less time is afforded the patients while the bulk of his time was spent on diagnosis codes and insurance papers. Where there should have been further allowance for Doctor/Patient visitation and relations, he'd found himself having to spend too much time and effort in the "insurance" part of it.

They're locked into whatever the insurance companies/HMO's dictate and the patient has a much smaller degree in visitation with their Doctor. All the while, the insurance companies profit and get richer and richer whilst the Art of Medicine suffers amongst the politics of it all.

We talked for quite some time that day, per usual and I paid attention to his every word. I've gone on since then, painfully aware of the "Politics" of it all. The point being, in this situation is that I was not aware before of the games, the politics in the Medical Industry, i.e., hospitals and so on.

I can clearly see that you are a victim of such games and politics, huh? Yes, the good Doctor has enlightened me once again because had it not been for that conversation with Dr. Goodman, I might not understand fully, this political bullshit you are dealing with. And that is, without a doubt exactly what it is; Bullshit to the 9th power.

I am not certain that there's any easy answer to this question you have posed. What I can and will say is that, "You only live once. Why not try to be happy?" So, what would or could it take to get you to some semblance of happiness?

More prevalent, to me is; what can we/you do to keep you from the mindset of becoming suicidal? Yes, that, your words speak volumes to me and I do feel your pain. I take it real serious too as I've been on that side of the fence, actually sitting on it, teetering back and forth between the pain of it all and the selfishness of the act itself. At the time though, all I could feel was the pain, it blinded me from the true significance of it all.

Having said this, broaching the subject head-on, I will tell you that, for you to even write those words, I knew that you are in such pain. It is unfathomable, this pain both physical and emotional that you are going through. I hope you will read my words to you and read them with a warm and hearing heart...

First and foremost, we must get those headaches manageable. I've suffered through and with 5 different types of diagnosed headaches, myself and without a doubt, that's enough for someone to want to extinguish the light, in and of itself. So, I can somewhat relate.

Most of us "Want what we want, when we want it," meaning we want it right now and in a hurry. I am no exception. I want it yesterday! But I think some of these things, the trappings, comings and goings of your life will have to be addressed one thing, one minute at a time.

There could be several factors, things that are causing your headaches, which I'm sure you are aware. In my own case, I stated that I had several different types and although I could be wrong, I do believe that you are lumping different pain/headaches into one category; Migraine.

What I am saying is that if it is an actual migraine, there are medications, good meds for treatment but they are certainly not one and the same,(migraines vs headache). It is highly possible that you are experiencing high blood pressure headaches as well as muscle tension, all of which require different attention as well as understanding of their difference. Each and every one of these can be debilitating, in and of itself.

The stress factors in your life are enough to cause headache all by themselves. Even the very thought or anticipation of headache is enough to send someone into a tailspin.

Personally, I have to do several things just to get through my own day. I am on blood pressure meds too and oddly enough, my pain usually causes my BP to go up.

I start my day thusly; I turn on the espresso machine and then I put my heat bag in the microwave. (Here's a nifty idea to make your own) If you are not crafty, as most guys are not, I suggest purchasing one. I've had a rice bag as well as a bag made with corn. I can't imagine life without one of these. As I said, I wake up and use the heated bag and through out the day, especially if I type a lot, I will heat it up again and put the bag around my neck. It really makes a difference in the amount as well as the severity of my headaches.

Stress in and of itself can debilitate, don't you know? Stress kills, causes disorders, heart attacks and how we handle every day stress makes all the difference. This statement comes from a woman, myself, who's been diagnosed with P.T.S.D. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (
w/hypervigilance). Panic attacks are an every day occurrence for me. So, it's no bullshit to say that I come from a place of experience as well as a few pointers.

Becoming aware of the things that stress you is of the utmost importance. It seems to me that you have pretty much narrowed it down, primarily, as your job.

Mentioning that I am aware of the politics involved in/at your establishment is for a reason. I realize that you can not just complain and change things. Besides it basically involving a complaint which will fall on deaf ears, I'm sure you are aware. Those that are deemed complainers are usually blacklisted and in some ways put on the same list as whistle blowers. So, what can you do?

For starters, you must come to a place of happiness, where you begin to look out for numero uno. Your first source, your first destination has got to be a knowing a presence of mind that happiness is simply a state of mind.

What I am saying is that I have met, particularly women who were doing "Life" but had found that place of happiness or rather, they "chose" to be happy. But how is that possible Babz?


When it's all said and done, anything and everything in life comes down to choices. We can choose to be happy in the worst of situations or the exact opposite. When faced with the firing squad, in example, we can choose to be graced with the idea that it'll only hurt for a second, if that. Or we can over analyze it, like I am famous for(I talk myself out of this over
psychoanalysis on the daily) and stand there debating who it is that will fire the blank, how bad it's gonna hurt, is it gonna be a big mess, omg what if they miss. This is typical behavior of the infamous "Say'ers."

Every day we are faced with choices. Often times we can't or don't see those choices. We also have doors or windows of opportunity as I'm sure you can look back in retrospect and see where you felt you were locked into a situation. You just could not see those choices. But again, every day we must choose to be "do'ers" or we can be "say'ers."
[Aunt B terminology

I'll start with what I lovingly call the "Say'ers
." Say'ers are the kind of people and I know you've had the misfortune to have met. Some are just dripping with negativity. They are the kind of people who sit in their own shit and complain how really really bad it stinks. They are usually the first ones to point out, as well, just how bad your shit stinks, too!

They bitch and moan about their lives to anyone and everyone who will listen. Watch as they single handedly ruin your sunny disposition, yes, they're enough to piss off a Preacher. They'll stomp the piss out of any positive feedback too, telling you that it won't work, you're full of shit and don't ya know, they know it all.

The funniest statement these Say'ers proudly proclaim to you is, "Your first mistake was thinking I could ever make a mistake." And I do believe that half their problem is that they worry too much.

The "Do'ers
" in this life will just do the dang thing. They'll search diligently for the "Silver Lining" in all situations. Faced with a negative situation, they will turn it around, even if it's in their own mind and make it palatable, make it work for them.

Faced with that same, at sunrise firing squad, the
"Do'ers" will offer coffee and "of course it's no trouble to make 12 Latte's." They're the ones that will comfort you by pointing out that there's no hard feelings and for real, one of you has a blank so don't you worry about that guilt, I'm already working on forgiving you.

Now, don't mistake
the "Do'ers"for patsy's, as they are far from it. No, the difference is that they'll take charge of their own environment. They realize that life in and of its self is a state of mind. And they'll make the very best out of a reasonably bad situation. They are not "worry free" but tend to realize that sometimes you have no control, come what may, all else is filed under the category, "Let Go & Let God."

Yours is a reasonably bad situation. But I can tell that you are a "Do'er" I just wanted to remind you. I'm also not playing the "Power of Postive Thinking" card on you. Yet at the same time, that is exactly what you need to do, think positively. I just don't want you to think that as I'm writing you, it's all some bullshit mantra to tide you over.

Because life is a state of mind and home is where you hang your heart, I suggest that you begin to see it as such. You must begin a journey, open a new chapter, in this book, "My Life."

Right now, you are overwhelmed by it all. Begin to break it all down, assess it, in and of its self, meaning, take each individual problem and view it separately. Then, work on one piece at a time. I would start with the headaches.

Don't give up or give into these headaches as they will rule you. Be your own advocate concerning them. Take the tips I'd given you, prior, seriously. Most men tend to scoff at such things, for whatever reason...and suffer. Why suffer?

When you feel a headache coming on, pop a couple of Motrin and dammit if nothing else, get an old sock fill it with rice and cloves, tie a knot in the end of it and heat the sock for two minutes. Do this as a preventive measure. When you come home from work, first thing you do is put this stupid sock around your neck<<---I just read your mind, hahaha! I promise not to tell and really, isn't it just smart to take charge of your situation, namely those confounded headaches? If you can cut these headaches out, your first line of business is battled. If you treat yourself right, when you get home from work, you'll be better for it and there's a good possibility that you'll be headache free in the mornings. I am 50 so I can relate, concerning your age and starting over. Rather, I understand you not wanting to go back to school, although it may come to that. Again, it is all a mind set. If you think about it, it's really never too late to do anything if you choose to do it because the outcome is positive and it'll make you happy or help you in some way. The question here, then becomes; "what will it take for you to find some happiness?"

Just for the sake of security, I would do or rather begin to implement a strategy, one you've mentioned of sorts; Downsizing.

Might I also mention that you've got to be ahead of their game. The very best way you can beat them is with your own state of mind.

Now, repeat after me; You will not allow them to get you down. You will not allow them to own you, your life or your happiness.

The choices we decide to follow through with in this life, of course are not always the right ones. We live, we love, we learn, we laugh, especially at ourselves, right?

Look for the laughter, please, my friend! Search diligently for something every day that makes you laugh.
Comedy Central's
This is actually my own rule, one which I do preach and follow. At night, I always find something to make me laugh. In my search, it takes my mind off of things, laughter is good for the soul.

I suppose I've not really given you an answer but rather a state of mind. How you proceed from this moment further can and will shape the things to come. No, this is not some feel good package all rolled up, tied with a pretty bow.

One things for certain; You can own you or they can own you. You can choose to be positive or you can allow them to take you down. Personally, if I have my way, you'll begin a regimen of self healing, self preservation and self motivation.

One more thing. It is my own quote, one which I am extremely fond of, an approach to life. Think about this;

"Some say the glass of water is half empty.
Some say the glass of water is half full.
I say, I am just grateful for the water."

Keeping It Real,

Aunt Babz


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