Thursday, December 8, 2011

Labels are for jars, not people


The conversation started off innocently enough.  You seem more down, lately, my boss told me over the phone on Monday.  Well, it’s nice of you to be concerned, I said, thank you, but now that I’m moving into my new place, hopefully things will start to even out.


Caitlin, we know you have bipolar.  (Well, yes, of course you know.  You also know I have an eating disorder, given that it was relevant for you to know both of those things since I leave work early on Wednesday to get to therapy on time.  You also know that I see doctors regularly, take medication, and work actively and conscientiously to remain in control over the demons I fight.  I never felt the need to hide any of this from you, given that it has no bearing over the quality of care that I provide for your daughter.)

Would it be alright with you if I spoke to your doctor just to make sure that you’re fit to take care of Birdie?

Translation: Would it be alright with you if I blatantly invaded your privacy, insulted you, delegitimized the excellent care you’ve provided Birdie over the last three months, and stomped all over any self-respect you might have shakily built for yourself?

No.

No, it is not alright.

A question for you, J.: have I given you any reason to be concerned about how I care for Birdie?  Anything you’ve seen or heard or felt uncomfortable with?

No! she vehemently replied.  No, no, sweetie, we adore you, we think you’re wonderful and that you do a fantastic job with her!  It’s just that I asked my doctor about bipolar and he told me that I should speak to your doctor to make sure you’re okay around kids.

Hmm.

So let me get this straight:
You asked a doctor who has never met me, seen me, or potentially heard anything about bipolar disorder since his psych residency thirty years ago about bipolar.  He gave you an off-the-cuff answer. 
His answer and advice became law?
It takes precedence over the last three months that you have seen and witnessed first-hand how well I care for your daughter?
It takes precedence over your own feelings that I do a fantastic job?
It takes precedence over the fact that you can’t think of a single instance where you’ve doubted or questioned my abilities?

Apparently.  Apparently the job I do is less important or relevant than the advice of a “trained professional.”  Unless, of course, I acquiesced to her request to speak to my trained professional who could vouch for me.  Got it.

Well, no.

Leaving the expletives out of this: it’s none of your business what I talk about with my doctors.  It’s none of your business what I deal with, because I don’t bring it to work with me and it has never – by your own admission – affected how I do my job.  And it is a choice, your choice to place more importance on this doctor’s advice than on the last three months’ effort, energy, and love that I have poured into caring for your daughter.

That’s your choice.

And here’s mine:

No.

No, because it’s not relevant.

No, because it’s none of your business.

No, because I respect myself too much to let you walk all over me like this.

No, because I am more than a label that might describe me and if you can’t see that, then I don’t want to work for you.

No, because when I went and spoke to my trained professional last night, you know what she told me?

That she was proud of me for standing up for myself.  That she would have been more than willing to vouch for my ability to care for children, but that I was absolutely, irrefutably correct in deciding that it wasn’t necessary and was blatantly disrespectful of someone to ask for that validation.

Who lost in this situation, my doctor asked me.  Them, I said.  They lost the best nanny they’ll ever have and they lost my respect.  That’s right, she said.  And who wins in this situation?  Me, I said, and I smiled.  I win.  I get to live in one city, not two.  I get to find a new job, one where I am respected and valued for the work I do, not the words that fill my medical chart.

I win.

I win because in saying no to someone else, I said yes to myself for the first time in a long, long time. 

11 comments:

Faith said...

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Allison the Meep said...

Yeah!! What you did took so much courage, and a doormat-in-recovery like me could take a cue from you.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing and inspiring! Good for you, it takes an super strong person to even be honest enough to tell your employer, and then to actually stand up for yourself...you should be so, so proud!

Holly R said...

You are amazing and inspiring! Good for you, it takes an super strong person to even be honest enough to tell your employer, and then to actually stand up for yourself...you should be so, so proud!

Noelle {Aloud} said...

You are wonderful and amazing, and you so, so win!

Cait said...

Thank you all so, so much for your support. The hurt will still linger, but it's fading slowly. Standing up for myself felt good and getting a job offer today felt even better :-)

Lauren said...

Good for you! Good for you for standing up for yourself and for maybe sending a message to your employer that asking those kinds of questions is not ok.

Alia said...

YAYYYY! (yes, i still read your blog :) )

Bethany said...

Amazing. I don't know you, but I'm proud of you for standing up for yourself.

Anonymous said...

no responsible parent would hire a bipolar nanny. it's pretty simple.

Cait said...

Anon-
Obviously, I don't know who you are but I would also venture a guess that you don't know me either and so you're really not in a place to judge my ability to care for children effectively and safely. Furthermore, I'd wager an extremely educated guess that if you did know me, even when I was at my sickest, you would have never known my diagnosis if you hadn't read this blog. Is a person with bipolar disorder who is not receiving treatment perhaps not safe to care for children? Maybe, but it depends on the person. As for me, at the time I wrote this post, I was doing extremely well on the medications and with the therapy I was receiving and under the recommendation of all of my health professionals was just fine doing what I did for a living. If/when you become a parent, you retain the right to make whatever decisions you want about who can care for your children. At no time, not now and certainly not then, does that extend to give you the right to make assertions about what all "responsible" parents would or should do. So no, actually, it's not pretty simple, it's apparently far more complex and nuanced than you seem to comprehend.