update: I’m about to go on medical leave, but I’m also hoping to take my long-delayed honeymoon

Last week’s letter-writer who has about to go on medical leave but also hoped to take a long-delayed honeymoon has sent in an update:

This is a very soon update, but after the urgency in some of the comments I got I felt I really needed to push forward and talk to my boss ASAP (sorry, letter-writer who hates that term!), which I did today and it was a very positive interaction! I used your script plus a few elements from the comments and highlighted my decreasing absences and listed some of the techniques I was using to try and stay ahead of the curve. She surprised me by letting me know she’d seen and noticed the improvement herself and she was very proud and excited to see that I was finding some methods to help mitigate my illness’s effects.

When I brought up my honeymoon she was, as commenters had predicted, vaguely aware of the trip and the approximate summer time of it but was naturally not thinking very much about it like I was. She was actually very excited for me and asked about where we were going and such, and the whole conversation was much more relaxed than I feared it would be. She didn’t give me a firm absolutely go or a firm absolutely not, but said that if I can keep a similar level of absences that I’m at right now (1-2 hours a week), barring any major flare-ups she sees no problems with me taking that week off. I also came to her with a game plan of my specialist schedules and how I was going to handle each of their needs leading up to and returning from my trip and what other admins I hoped to collaborate with on it, and she was really receptive to that as well. I feel like while a small part of me is disappointed I didn’t get an enthusiastic and unconditional yes, I knew that was extremely unlikely and I think this is the best possible outcome all things considered.

I think my homework paid off, as did a lot of the comments helping give me some perspective and clarity, even if some of them got me a little emotional. I also realized my situation is much different from what others think of when they think admin and I’m lucky to be where I am. And I also learned that despite my word-vomit, I’m still not all that great at explaining what I mean in just one attempt! That’s something to work on though as I proceed through the rest of my career.

Thank you so much for your help and the script and for the supportive and informational comments. Thanks to a few commenters I even discovered a couple of new avenues for treating my insomnia that I hadn’t tried before that I am excited to pursue.

I hope to be writing back one last time in August with confirmation of a wonderful honeymoon and hopefully some sleep-filled nights. :)  Thank you again Alison and commenters!

{ 54 comments… read them below }

  1. OlympiasEpiriot

    That is all very good news! (Especially, from my perspective, that you learned a couple of strategies to fight the insomnia that you didn’t know already. Insomnia is torture. Literally.)

    Best of luck!

    1. Specialk9

      I love this update so much. Thanks OP, we love a good success story. You did a great job. And your boss sounds like she is really on your side. Thanks for the update!

    2. Logan

      > Insomnia is torture. Literally.

      I spend time around someone whose insomnia is related to celiac. It was hard to sort out the link to food, but once it was found… the world was an infinitely better place for them.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Seriously, and OP sounds like she really reflected and took a step back to evaluate the best way forward. This is a really heartening update!

  2. heckofabecca

    Ah wow! What a good update! Thanks for writing back, OP. Best of luck for all your upcoming plans!

  3. Detective Amy Santiago

    This is a great update! I hope you get some answers on your insomnia and get to take your honeymoon :)

    1. Stargirl

      I agreed with your comment on the original post and I agree here too. Boss is gracious and fair in this instance.

  4. OP/LW

    And after I sent this email to Alison I got my final approval for FMLA! So I’m good on all angles now :)

    1. animaniactoo

      Oh, excellent! This is a great update and I am sure that having done your homework really helped your boss feel comfortable working with you to make it all happen. You’ve done a fantastic job – both from accepting the gut check to really working on what’s feasible and being on top of making that happen.

      I hope the honeymoon trip comes through for you and I hope you get some sleep relief!

    2. Meg Murry

      Woohoo! Happy to hear it.

      I just re-read the past thread and I wanted to add 2 pieces of advice that I had not yet seen.

      1) If possible, write down and track as much as possible. What time you tried to go to bed, how much sleep you actually got, how restful that sleep actually was, what meds you took and what time you took them, etc. Tracking food could also be helpful, but probably not as critical. I’ve found that when I show up to doctors/specialists with this kind of detailed logged info, I get taken much more seriously than when I go in and try to explain in more general terms (like I’m only getting 2- hours of sleep a night for X amount of time). I think part of it is that having the data in front of them shows I’m not exaggerating or mis-estimating, and part of it shows that I’m already putting in work to try to deal with whatever the problem is.

      2) I’m interpreting from the comments that you are a woman, but if this is not relevant to you, please skip it. For me, insomnia is strongly correlated to my hormone levels and where I am in my menstral cycle – however, my cycles tend to get extremely out of whack when my sleep gets out of whack, making both go even goofier. Not sure if you’ve gone that route, but it might be worth tracking to see if you see any kind of correlation – perhaps if so an oral contraceptive may help even things out (or could be part of where things are getting wacky). This is something I’ve experienced my whole life, dating back to my early teenage years – but it wasn’t until recently that I put 2 and 2 together and realized that this was such a regular occurrence for me and therefore something I could predict and try to mitigate or at least plan and anticipate.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

        AGREED. Along those lines, there are several very good cycle-tracking apps that could help with finding patterns. So useful. I know, for example, that on day 19, I am going to be HUNGRY and if I don’t eat extra I will be miserable and grumpy. Now I can plan to make sure I pack an unusually large lunch and extra snacks for that day.

        1. Not Rebee

          Fitbit even just released this as part of their app so if you have a fitbit tracker (as so many people do) you won’t even need an extra app for it! And some fitbits track sleep as well so you can look back in one app and correlate. I believe fitbit intends to eventually link sleep, eating, and exercise trends with your cycle.

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      Congratulations! What a fantastic update, I’m so happy for you.

      (BTW I replied to your comment at the end of the first post. It contains some info that might be helpful. I was a few days late and wanted to let you know it’s there now.)

    4. LeRainDrop

      Fabulous! I bet you made a really good impression on your boss by approaching her now with your request and specifically your plans/methods for addressing and curtailing medical time off. Bravo!

    5. Lilianne

      What an awesome update! I hope you get better soon and can have a great honeymoon, looking forward to your August update!

  5. ALICE L

    I’m really happy to hear this good update. I was thinking about this with the original letter, and if the boss said no, I could actually understand it. I mean, a few hours every week really adds up. just 1 hour every week is 6.5 work days a year.

    But if it is manageable, I think the boss shouldn’t say no just on principle. So glad it looks like everything will go as planned.

    1. Penny

      I’m a little confused as to how much work OP is actually missing – in the original letter she said a few hours every morning, in this letter it’s 1-2 hours a week.

      1. Someone else

        In the update she also said she’d improved so I’m assuming it decreased from the original description between then and now.

      2. OP/LW

        It was worse when I originally wrote the letter(2+ weeks ago) and I was coming off of a particularly bad flare up, and it’s steadily improved since then, down to 1-2h a week.

  6. Turquoisecow

    This is such an awesome update! I’m so glad your boss was supportive and understanding, and you get to go on this great trip. Looking forward to another positive update in the future. :)

  7. Falling Diphthong

    *interpretive dance for speaking up and not guessing*

    Especially coming from Prudie, where the theme is “I want to tell an acquaintance ‘no.’ Can I do this with psychic vibrations?”

  8. Not An Admin

    Great news!

    And FWIW, it’s not easy to learn how to tame the word vomits (love that term!) to make communication better, but it is worth it. I still struggle, but it helps to assume that most of my readers are looking at things on their tiny cell phone screens while at a red light or waiting to place their lunch order. And then I do a lot of revision to get to the point.

    I can’t wait to hear about the fabulous honeymoon!

  9. smoke tree

    I’m glad to hear everything worked out, but I still think the boss’s response feels a little off to me. She seems to be treating a medical issue as if it were a performance issue–sometimes medical stuff can really be out of your control and her approach feels a bit patronizing to me. I’d be pretty uncomfortable if my manager wanted to know any details about medical treatments or felt entitled to influence my medical decisions. It sounds to me like the LW is really doing the best she can in a crappy situation and I wish the boss were a bit more respectful.

    1. animaniactoo

      No, when your illness is long-term impacting your performance and attendance, your boss is entitled to know what you’re *doing* about that. So that they have a better understanding of what’s possible and how you are treating your work responsibilities with that as a component. You don’t really get to have a mysterious private plan that they have to wander around trusting that you’re actually working on it while it continues to impact your work life. They’re at least entitled to the broad strokes plan that it sounds like OP gave which gives them an idea of what they’re dealing with as far as employee’s availability and dedication to getting it resolved.

      From my read, boss isn’t trying to influence any medical decisions. But she is appropriately making business decisions in response to OP’s medical decisions.

    2. Health Insurance Nerd

      I kind of agree with you. Insomnia is a truly debilitating condition, and I doubt the boss would have the same perspective about missed time if the LW were receiving cancer treatments, dialysis, or help with a more “visible” malady.

      1. Courageous cat

        This is probably an unpopular opinion but I feel like the difference here is that, in many cases, insomnia can be a little more… subjective than something like cancer. I believe 100% that OP has debilitating insomnia (and that many other people do), but some people just have shitty sleep schedules, or procrastinate on the internet late at night, or drink too much coffee every day, and then blame it on “insomnia”. And a lot of people with normal sleeping schedules think “not sleeping well for a night or two” is insomnia. None of it makes it right, but it contributes to people/bosses sometimes taking insomnia less seriously than it should be, as some people use the term pretty loosely sometimes.

        I think insomnia should be treated as seriously as any other disease but there is certainly a perspective to consider that people misusing the term or using it in a misleading way can cause it to be misunderstood, so it makes it trickier.

        1. Lynn

          An ex of mine had intermittent FMLA for a medical condition that could flare. He was definitely not doing all he could to minimize the impact of his illness on his coworkers and it was hard to empathize when he complained about their attitude. But it sounds like the OP is doing what she can to help.

    3. Starbuck

      Attendance can definitely be a performance issue, regardless of what’s causing it. If I were the boss in questions I too would be relieved (for OP’s sake and my own) that they were proactively seeking treatment to minimize that impact on their life. Obviously they’re not entitled to any details about how OP is managing her medical condition, but things like “I’m booking appointments with a new specialist” are a good way to show that you are trying to take care of yourself and make improvements. Plus, having FMLA approved is great.

    4. OP/LW

      Honestly, I don’t feel like she’s wanting to know more details or is behaving entitled; I WANT to share with her because I want to build a good communicative relationship. She’s very much a straight-shooter and I know she’d respect it if I didn’t want to share, but I am a very open person in general and I want to share my experiences/ struggles because I like for people’s perceptions of me to be a well-rounded and fully-formed as possible. Parts of her behavior niggle at me but the cultural perception of insomnia is not very friendly and she is by far the most understanding boss I’ve ever had about this. I’m acutely aware of how people tend to take this illness less seriously and it’s why I tend to feel drawn to share some of the more severe side effects (like memory loss and scattered thoughts) to illustrate how it is a serious illness like any other. I think I’ve already helped change the perception of it where I work among my coworkers and my boss so I think I’ve been quite lucky to have everyone seem receptive to learning about the illness and the treatments and how it effects me and them by extension.

      1. smoke tree

        I’m glad to hear that my perception was off-base. I do appreciate that there is some info that the manager needs to know, inasmuch as it effects your work schedule and productivity. There were just a few remarks that rubbed me the wrong way, like the ones about wanting to see a commitment to fewer absences going forward. That just feels like a bit of an unreasonable way to look at it, as if each absence was a sign that you just weren’t trying hard enough. Maybe it’s my own experience with insomnia that makes me grumpy about this, though.

        1. OP/LW

          I definitely relate! I’ve had some bosses treat it as a work ethic issue, not an illness issue, and it was misery. Thankfully this is not one of those situations :)

        2. Avacado

          What you fail to realize is that this was said in the request for a vacation. Under FMLA an employer can require you use vacation time first. This means that OP may not have vacation time left for the vacation. This isnt about getting more info, it may seriously be about the time out of work.

          While employer cannot fire or retaliate/demote for FMLA absences, the employer can very much state that the employee is not allowed additional time off for something.

  10. mark132

    I love updates like this! Congratulations on improving health and your honeymoon!

  11. chomps84

    That’s awesome! I love updates like this. I hope everything works out for you.

  12. Clarice Fitzpatrick

    LW, I’m so happy that the interaction went positively for you (and congrats on the FMLA approval!) since I remember thinking how crappy this situation seemed, especially as it was a cluster of bad timing and circumstances vs. your workplace needs. I hope everything goes well, both treating your insomnia and your honeymoon.

  13. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?

    I’m thrilled that this has a good update. The less stress the better for your condition and your overall health/happiness.

  14. sap

    Op, I’m so glad you’re probably going to be able to go!!

    If I were you I’d have another conversation to check in about 1-2 weeks before you can’t get refunds on stuff that’s refundable and be explicit that you’re keeping deposits at that point, so that your boss gives you a stronger commitment with knowledge that you’re financially relying on that, if you still would be too early to put in a formal booking for the time.

  15. Marion Ravenwood

    Glad you got a good response from your boss and your FMLA got approved! Hope you have a wonderful honeymoon :)

  16. Oilpress

    I really hope you find a long-term solution to your medical problem. That conditional yes from your boss still highlights the fact that she is dissatisfied with the situation. I am pretty sure she is going to continue to believe you can power through your insomnia to show up to work, and you will always be battling against that expectation if you don’t.

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