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

A reader writes:

My husband and I eloped in December, and our dream honeymoon location is one where the weather at that time of year isn’t ideal, so we decided to push it back until August, our other anniversary. My coworkers even had a post-wedding show for me in which they had a money tree to contribute to our honeymoon fund.

In the intervening time (and honestly, for a very long time), I’ve struggled with severe chronic insomnia. I’ve used up the majority of my leave time (vacation and sick) on it, and am about to go on intermittent FMLA after a particularly bad month so that my job is protected during future flare-ups. My coworkers are supportive and understanding, and my boss understands but also feels very strongly that my attendance needs to improve. I agree, but until I can get under better treatment (I’m waiting for a specialist to open up), I’m at the mercy of my illness.

The nature of my particular beast is that when I have flare-ups I can either take a couple hours in the morning (usually after laying in bed for five to six hours, I can finally get some sleep) and catch a few hours of sleep and be functional for six hours a day, or I can come in to work and be falling asleep at my desk and barely minimally functional for eight hours a day. I do get my work done, and for the coverage-related aspects of my job we have several others in my position that help cover when I miss those few hours, and I do my absolute best to never miss a full day of work. I’m very good at what I do, perhaps one of the best on my position at our organization, and I love my job and my work, and I’ve tried to express that so that I’m not seen as trying to take advantage or be flighty.

I believe that my boss takes me seriously and takes my illness seriously, but she also has made several remarks about my attendance that give me the impression she thinks I can just power through it and I’m choosing to have poor attendance. I’m concerned that attitude will result in her denying me unpaid time off in August for my honeymoon, because “I should have thought of it when I was taking so much time off.” We’ve already booked our week-long stay (the location is extremely popular) and it’s a known fact amongst the entire office that I’m going thanks to the shower. The only reason it’s not “on the books” at work is because nobody submits leave that early here. I won’t be quitting if I can’t take this time off, but it would be hugely demoralizing because my husband and I have been trying to take this trip quite literally years and we’re finally financially able to make it happen.

I left my last job because they went back on their word about giving me a flexible schedule for school and time to take off for this trip when I was planning it originally several years ago, but I can’t leave without having something else lined up. The rash part of me wants to mention my last job and the reason I left, but the sensible part thinks that’s not too smart. I know it’s perfectly legal for her to deny me that unpaid time off because of my illness-related absences but is there any way I can try to talk through the situation with her? I’m also concerned if I bring the leave to her now, she’ll make me promise to have fewer absences between now and then … which I can’t promise. Is there a script I can use to talk to her about this?

Well … it might not be entirely unreasonable for your boss to tell you that it would be tough for her to grant additional leave, given how much you’ve already been out this year.

To be clear, she shouldn’t do that just for the principle of it — if she can make it work without a lot of hardship, she should find a way to accommodate you, particularly if you’re excellent at your job.

But there are jobs and circumstances where it would be legitimately difficult to have someone miss more work, and it’s possible that could be the case here. It of course would be wrong to frame it as “you should have thought of it when you were taking so much time off,” as you fear she might — since that implies that your time off was a matter of choice, rather than a medical condition. But a reasonable boss could indeed end up saying in some circumstances, “I’d love to say yes to this, but we really need you here because of the X backlog from your time out earlier this year.”

Because of that, I wouldn’t delay talking to her about it — especially since you’ve already booked the vacation. You say that everyone in the office knows, but that doesn’t mean she knows the exact dates or the length of time or other details that could impact her answer. And she may be put off that you haven’t actually requested the time, given the broader situation. It makes sense to have the conversation now, even if your office doesn’t typically deal with vacation requests so far in advance.

Your best bet is probably to frame it this way: “I think you know that I’ve been planning to take my honeymoon in August. I wanted to talk to you about logistics around that, because I know that I’ve missed a lot of work due to the health issue I’ve been struggling with. I wouldn’t normally plan a vacation while I’ve missed work so much, but because this is my honeymoon, I’d like to be able to take off (dates) for the trip.” If you’re willing to put in extra hours before the trip to mitigate some of the impact, mention that here. Also, if you won’t have enough accrued PTO to cover the trip, address that too (for example, explain that you’re willing to take the time unpaid). You might also add something like, “I want to be clear that I understand that my reliability has been a problem, and that I’m actively working to get the health issue under control.”

Normally I’d say to lean hard on the honeymoon element of this, because that does move this into the “special circumstances” category more than if it were a more routine trip. But that would probably be more compelling if the trip were immediately following your wedding; your boss may be less compelled by that since it’s eight months later. (I’m not saying it’s not still just as important to you, but she may see it as more routine vacation than honeymoon.)

If she tells you that she can only okay it if you can promise to have fewer absences between now and then, the only realistic response to that is something like, “I’d love to say yes to that, but the reality is that because this is a medical problem, I can’t say with certainty that I can do that. What I can tell you is that I’m committed to getting this under control and I’m actively working to see a sleep specialist to help me resolve it.” (And of course, be sure that you’re doing all you can there — even if it means, for example, taking an appointment with a doctor who’s further away but can see you now. I don’t mean to imply that you haven’t exhausted all options — just that when you’re asking for something your boss isn’t obligated to say yes to and may have good reason to say no to, it helps to be really vigilant about your own end of things.)

Don’t give into the impulse to mention that you left your last job because they went back on their word about your schedule and this trip. Your boss hasn’t gone back on her word here, it’s likely to read as a threat, and there’s a not-insignificant chance that it will irk her enough to harm your standing with her, potentially to the point that she might be less flexible with you than she’d otherwise be.

Ultimately, her answer may still be no — and that might be a reasonable business decision for her to make (or it might not be; that’s info I don’t have). But don’t put off talking to her about it, since if the answer is no, it’s better to find that out now, rather than closer to the trip.

{ 429 comments… read them below }

  1. Justin

    Well, this sucks for everyone, and particularly for the OP.

    But Alison is right. I’d speak to her ASAP (the OP last week might not like that acronym…). Don’t mention the previous job because it will indeed come off as a threat (that you might need to follow through on if you were to bring it up…)

    I’m not really sure what more can be done during the time before you are able to receive the treatment you need.

    1. LavaLamp

      Get that fmla yesterday OP! It will help and your boss won’t be able to use illness related absences against you.

      1. LW/OP

        I’m working on it! They already rejected it once for BS reasons(my FMLA letter included everything they said they rejected it for missing), but I’m hoping this second submission went better.

        It’s such a crappy situation to be in, I really do hate it.

    2. Ladylike

      I just want to say that chronic severe insomnia sounds horrid. I hope you get answers and relief soon, OP.

      1. Anonymoose

        As someone else who suffers from this (thanks Fibro!), it does truly suck.

        I basically get my best sleep between 6am and 10am. I changed my work hours to start later to help mitigate my sleeping issues. Might be something OP can discuss with her manager. It has REALLY cut down on absences for me!

  2. Soz

    Got very confused and thought Alison was going on medical leave! Oops!

    OP I hope thing improve.

    1. Specialk9

      OP, you said below that you’ve applied for FMLA and will reapply soon, that you’re an admin (but not doing some of the traditional admin duties that require butts-in-seats) to 5 women, get all your work done and have taken on new responsibilities, but that your manager does not have visibility into all you do.

      My advice is to start working on letting her see all you do. Start a weekly status report and either meet for a half-hour, or just send her your status bullets weekly by email. Let her see all you are doing!

      And keep on working toward FMLA, and document. Both that you’re doing your work, and that you’re working with your boss on the medical stuff.

      I think the trip advice has been well covered elsewhere. Good luck from a fellow chronic illness sufferer!

      1. LW/OP

        I just got word today that my FMLA was finally approved! I’m very pleased and I hopefully will be able to speak to my boss today.

  3. Wannabe Disney Princess

    LW, since you mention unpaid leave I think you have more of a leg to stand on here in bringing up your trip early. But I would definitely bring it up now because if you wait and then have this conversation, she might end up feeling blindsided (which would be difficult to come back from). And if you bring it up now, it will be easier for your boss and you to work together on a solution that makes sense.

    1. EddieSherbert

      +1 I think you’re far more likely to have a positive conservation with your boss if you do it now. It might not change the answer (yes or no to the trip), but she would likely judge you far harsher if you try to “add this to the schedule at the last minute” (I know you’ve had it planned for a long time, but if she doesn’t know about… it might as well not be planned yet).

    2. fposte

      Yeah, even if you didn’t mean it this way, OP, it’s common enough for people to book their travel before getting permission in order to force their manager’s hand, so you want to avoid any appearance of that. You also don’t want to assume that she knew because of general office reaction to your wedding and honeymoon–this needs direct informing. I know you can’t roll back the clock now, but I’d have had a word with the manager before I booked.

      1. LW/OP

        Yeah, I booked it pretty much immediately after the shower since we had the money then. Of course, that was before a lot of the worst of this. :(

        1. Observer

          Then you need to tell her that – don’t hint. Explicitly tell her that you booked as soon as you had the money and before you had this level of flare up that caused all of these absences. That will hopefully help her understand that you are not being cavalier or irresponsible about this.

        2. Eye of Sauron

          I’m confused (I haven’t read all the way down yet), did you put in for the time off when you booked? Or are you doing it now?

          1. Jules the 3rd

            OP has not yet put in for the time off, because their office doesn’t do it 3mo in advance.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              Policies like this have come up before on this blog and they utterly baffle me. I am a Planner and I cannot imagine either booking my trip without having my vacation approved -or- waiting until 3 months before to plan my trip.

              Is this really a common thing? How do people generally handle it?

              1. Green

                A lot of people also don’t really need to get vacation “approved” so much as they just take it.

                I’m like “Oh, I’m gone this week” and ::shrug:: I still have the same amount of work to do for the year either way.

              2. Oxford Coma

                This sort of batsh1t policy is apparently A Thing in a lot of places. The church that Mr. Coma and I wanted for our wedding refused to take reservations more than a year out. I had to take a PTO day a year to the day we wanted for our wedding, so I could sit with a watch and frantically call the office the second they opened, desperately hoping someone else wasn’t doing the same thing.

                1. Imposter Syndrome Graphic Designer

                  I work for a large church that’s popular for weddings. IDK what our reservation policy is (not my area), but that policy makes sense to me. You’d be amazed how many different ways different groups use our spaces, and a number of factors (staffing limitations, budgeting insecurities, unexpected funerals, etc.) make it really difficult to plan a lot of church programming more than a year or so in advance. At my church we literally have a meeting every three months where every department sits down together and talks through every single event they have planned for the next year, because multiple events being scheduled for the same time and place is a huge ongoing stressor (despite our fancy scheduling software). Not something I would have been able to tell before working here!

            2. CmdrShepard4ever

              I had/have a similar issue at my job. I think it is usually best to be upfront about things like this as far in advance as possible. If you do this most managers will try to work with you as much as possible.

              I am getting married in September and will be going on a two week honeymoon shortly after. Between time off for the wedding and honeymoon I will be taking about 3 weeks off. Normally people don’t request time off so far in advance. Unfortunately in our HR system we can’t officially request time off until we have the time available/accrued. Currently I do not have enough time to cover the honey moon, but I will by the time September comes around. I told my manager about the situation and she said to put it in our internal office calendar so that everyone knows that I am out during that time and that I have priority over others even if I haven’t officially requested it yet. Now I just have to officially request it in our HR systems as soon as I have the time accrued.

              Another time at another job I was asking my manager for a day off before thanksgiving because I wanted to book a flight to go home. Initially she thought I had already booked the flight and said “I guess I have to approve this since you already booked the flights.” Once I told her I had not booked the flights but wanted to get my time off approved first before booking she immediately brightened up and she seemed happy to approve the time off.

              I think it is best to get approval even if it is tentative for time off especially for 3 or more days before booking anything.

        3. Bananka

          Unfortunately, even though ot was a work shower, it doesn’t make it an inherent vacation authorization, even if you mentioned to the boss you were using the money for the trip.

    3. soupmonger

      Unpaid leave is just as much of an issue for the employer – cover still has to be found for the absence. The fact it’s unpaid as opposed to PTO is incidental.

      1. Bea

        And many employers forbid it or use it as a disciplinary reasoning. So unpaid isn’t magical! They assume you’ll use X amount of PTO but weeks of unpaid is difficult to handle manpower wise.

        1. Jerry Vandesic

          I have worked places where there is no such thing as unpaid leave. If you didn’t have the vacation time, you didn’t get the time off. For the OP, this might mean that they need to build up enough vacation time before they can take their trip.

          1. puzzld

            Yeah. We don’t have that possibility. We have somewhat generous annual and sick leave, but if you run out of leave you need to be on fmla or you’re gone. Now we could maybe work with the insomnia with a flexible scheduled, get your 40 in… but yeah, there would be no lwop.

      2. Genny

        Some companies don’t really allowed for unpaid leave. My company allows you to accrue up 40 hours of negative leave (which has to be paid if you the company before you earn enough PTO to make up for it). But getting approved for LWOP is a whole different ballgame, and generally only used for extended absences.

      3. MicroManagered

        Benefits administration is one reason unpaid time off is an issue for employers. If your paycheck isn’t enough to cover medical insurance deductions, your employer then has to pay the entire premium and try to recover the premiums from you at a later time. (Not doing so can jeopardize whether the employer can even offer pre-tax insurance benefits to its employees, since part of the compliance for that is that employees can only make changes to their benefit elections–i.e. not paying for them because their check is insufficient–under qualified circumstances.)

        1. CmdrShepard4ever

          Would this change if the employer is already paying 100% for all insurance premiums?

      4. NotAnotherManager!

        Sort of. When we plan staffing, we take into account the included leave package. When people take more leave than is part of the (already generous for the US) package, then we’re more likely to end up short-staffed and in positions where other people have trouble taking their leave (morale issue).

        It is tough because I think most people want to be understanding, but absences are absences and will typically require everyone else on the team to work more to cover. One of my staff had surgery last year (and I wanted him to have it because he was in so much pain before it) and he did an amazing job documenting some complex stuff for while he was out, but it was still exhausting and a burden to do my job and his for an extended period of time and then for regular PT appointments, even though I would never have considered denying or begrudging the medical leave for the surgery or subsequent PT.

  4. ExcelJedi

    I’m going to be honest: if I were taking so much need I started to need FMLA, I would probably not be planning a honeymoon. I don’t think of honeymoons as intrinsic to weddings/marriages (most of my family didn’t have the money to take them, including my parents), and I’d think that this was just a bad time for it.

    If the trip wasn’t already booked, I’d say to take a weekend trip instead and put that money toward an anniversary trip later – which is why it’s a bad idea to book trips without getting approval first, even if that doesn’t jive with the usual company culture.

    Sorry, OP, I know this is a tough, disappointing spot, but I would be very ready to let this trip go.

    1. LW/OP

      It’s kind of brushed against in the letter but this is a trip my husband and I have been trying to take for five years. It started out as a simple vacation, but we literally have not been able to go anywhere thanks to finances and this is the first year we’ve had the money together to actually do it. It’s not just a honeymoon; it’s the first vacation I’ve had in ten years and the first he’s ever had, plus our first together. That’s why it feels like such a big deal for us, especially coming from a below-poverty household(me) and a lower working class household(him) where vacations Were Not Done, we want our lives to be better than our parents.

      But I do appreciate the different point of view. Depending on how the chat with boss goes, we might have to have some serious conversations about this.

      1. Chriama

        I don’t think anyone’s trying to deny how much this means to you. But the fact is, you’ve missed a lot of work. You’re continuing to miss work for the foreseeable future. It would have been a good idea to discuss this with your employer before booking tickets. At the end of the day, a vacation is an optional activity (unlike your medical condition). And however meaningful and important it is to you, it’s important to note the optionality of this vacation in the greater context of your existing attendance issues.

        Anyways, I hope your boss lets you have the time off. I also hope you’re able to get better treatment for your insomnia and that your overall qualify of life improves.

        1. Mike C.

          On the other hand, this line of thinking means that someone with chronic illnesses can never, ever take a vacation.

          1. Observer

            There are a LOT of people who cannot take vacations, for a lot of reasons. No one says it’s good, but it is a real and quite difficult side effect of chronic illness that flexibility in a LOT of areas is significantly reduced.

          2. Lily Rowan

            Yeah. Someone on my team was on medical leave for a good chunk of time and was then scheduling vacation, and I had a moment of “but they’ve already been out so much!” And then I realized how shitty that was.

          3. mark132

            This is an excellent point, though for some chronically ill people it is an inescapable fact of life. Really for multiple reasons, they’ve used all their leave, too sick to actually travel (of course a staycation is an option as well), or simply lack the funds to afford it. I’m sure there are more reasons as well.

            1. TardyTardis

              Been there, done that–in 2015 I took all but two days of my four weeks for husband’s illnesses and emergencies, and for that two days I had a house guest (sighs, do not miss that year).

          4. LW/OP

            That line IS one of the reasons I haven’t had any vacations in the past few years. But I understand where it comes from and it’s one of the reasons why I haven’t asked to take any other time off in the past year, because when you have a chronic illness asking for time off for fun, even an afternoon, seems selfish.

            1. Renna

              That line of thinking is toxic. Not blaming you, OP, but to me it isn’t fair that people who are sick and miserable all the time are not “allowed” to take time off just for fun. Quality of life is kind of important and taking time off just for you is something that makes life better. Not many people can afford actual vacations, I’m one of them. But I go insane with no time off, even just a three day weekend here and there. I think most non-workaholics do too. And someone who is combating a serious, chronic illness, well… mental and physical rest can do a lot for many ills.

              People WILL think badly of you for taking a vacay, but what I’m trying to say is that I think they shouldn’t. It’s completely crappy that we’ve been conditioned to.

              1. LW/OP

                I definitely agree with you, but I do try to be sensitive to the optics of things as much as I can. It sucks but for now, we power on.

            2. Madeleine Matilda

              LW/OP – you are just as entitled to “fun” time off as every other person. Taking time off for reasons other than health really is okay. I say this as someone with a chronic illness.

            3. RUKiddingMe

              I haven’t read all the comments yet so this may have been addressed already.

              Since you booked so far in advance, if you can’t get approval, can you cancel and get refunded? Even a partial refund and then plan to re-book at a later date (even next year if necessary) while taking a couple/few long weekends in the mean time for some R&R would be better than the only time you have off being doctor appointments/FMLA.

              I know you’ve been waiting/looking forward to this vacation. I fee you, I really do, but sometimes crappy life things happen and we just have to roll with it as best we can. Before I discovered the wonder that is travel insurance for instance one time we had to eat not one but two, round trip, international first class tickets. Because…life happened.

            4. Observer

              I don’t think that it’s *selfish*. But, especially if you don’t have PTO left, it can cause problems.

          5. Health Insurance Nerd

            I feel the same way. Missing work due to a chronic illness does not a vacation make, and it’s terribly unfair to equate the two with each other. Yes, she has missed work, but that does not mean she (or anyone else in this situation) isn’t entitled to an actual vacation.

            1. AnotherAlison

              What?!?? No one is “entitled to an actual vacation.”

              It would be great if that were reality, but most people go through phases of life where this is not possible.

              1. Amber T

                I’m going to assume Health Insurance Nerd meant “actual vacation” as a break from work doing Fun Activities, and not necessarily an all expenses paid beach front resort.

                1. Amber T

                  (In which case, yes, everyone is entitled to an actual vacation. No one should be working all of the time.)

                2. Doreen

                  Of course, no one should be working all the time. But plenty of people at various times go through periods where taking a vacation “doing Fun Activities” just isn’t possible for whatever reason. Often because their paid vacation time was used for non-fun things and they can’t afford to take additional unpaid time even if their employer would allow it ( and many don’t)

                  It’s not a matter of those people not deserving a vacation , but to say someone is “entitled” to an actual vacation even after using their time off for other reasons implies that their employer is required to grant it no matter the circumstances.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever

              I agree missing work due to chronic illness is not a vacation. But at the same time asking for Leave Without Pay is a pretty big ask that should be reserved for important issues. I think a honeymoon does warrant LWOP and like Alison said the company should try to grant it if there is not a significant hardship for them to do so. But at the same time part of being able to do the job is showing up. At a certain point missing x amount of time becomes unfeasible for the company.

            3. Observer

              From the point of view of an employer, though, it doesn’t matter all that much that the two are not the same. Of course, a decent boss will be very careful about the legally mandated stuff, and someone with a bit of heart will try harder to accommodate the stuff that can’t be helped. But time off is time off, and it’s a genuine issue no matter the reason for the time off.

          6. Chriama

            But this isn’t about punishing or penalizing OP. It’s about acknowledging facts. If you’re out of the office a lot, you aren’t producing as much work. So to take a vacation on top of that, when you’re already not even contributing as much as a regular full time employee, can be a hardship for your employer. It’s the same logic that says that if your illness is making you unable to do the demands of the job, maybe it’s not the right role for you. Or sometimes there are people in a job that is just not right for them — they’re not picking up information as quickly as they should, they’re not able to handle routine tasks, etc. They could be a really hard worker and a really nice person, but at the end of the day if they can’t do the job they were hired to do they may be let go.

            I’m not trying to imply that a chronic illness somehow translates to incompetence at your job. And I do believe that employers should do their best to accommodate as much of their employees’ lives as possible. But yes, if you are out of the office a lot and your work isn’t getting done, that might mean you don’t have as much opportunity to go on vacation. It sucks, but there it is.

            1. Green

              Yes. While I think it’s helpful for commenters to offer their opinions about the way the world should be, it’s also helpful for commenters to provide the perspective of how many people in the real world will react or interpret it (which is often far less than the ideal…).

              It’s the same with the hairy armpits questions, or makeup, or attire choices. Ideally nobody cares and everyone is compassionate and empathetic, carefully analyzing the consequences. But, yeah, people should be prepared for alternatives that aren’t illegal.

              1. Bleeborp

                That’s such a good point, especially when someone is in these comments expressing the less compassionate but possibly more realistic viewpoint. Of course we’re viewing this through the lens of the OP and if you’re a kind person you feel terrible for them but a collection of their actual coworkers who all have their own issues in life may just have a less sympathetic read on it. I could definitely see myself feeling annoyed that I had to pick up the slack for someone out sick and then also pick up more slack when they’re on vacation while also acknowledging that it sucks for the OP to miss work for their illness they can’t control. People can be of two minds about something!

          7. Autumnheart

            On a purely practical note, when someone is out for any reason, often the people covering for them can’t take a vacation either.

            I’m not attributing any moral quality to that, but the bottom line is that resources are finite and in a lot of workplaces, there aren’t enough people to cover for multiple outages. It doesn’t mean chronically ill people don’t deserve vacations because they’re out for their illness, any more than it means chronically healthy people don’t deserve vacations because they’re needed to provide coverage. But it’s not about “deserving”. Part of the reality of the impact of a chronically ill coworker is on their coworkers. Not just on “the business”.

            1. LQ

              This is important. We have somewhere between 25-50% of our business area on FMLA at a time (nearly always intermittent). We have plenty of people for coverage. But what we don’t have is coverage enough so that if everyone is there we have to lay people off. If someone doesn’t need FMLA anymore we don’t want to have to lay them (or someone else) off because we are so overstaffed. So we have a decent amount of coverage (we are overstaffed because of the FMLA thing, so I worry every now and then that if everyone and their family gets healthy all of a sudden we won’t have space, money, or work for everyone and who gets laid off…I don’t want to say luckily we aren’t a particularly healthy bunch, but it hasn’t happened yet). This means some people don’t get to take all the vacations (fun fact, it’s not just the people on FMLA, a lot of us are donating our vacation time to people who are on fmla).

              Everyone deserves time off to recharge their batteries. But when you work with other humans there are consequences to being a frail human. We all have batteries that need recharging. It sucks. But the options are: People don’t get the time they need to partake in the medical care they need, people don’t get the vacation time they need, people get laid off. I’m going to pick the we give up vacation time in that scenario.

              1. Susie Cruisie

                Yes, this. Also, when it comes to budgeting, an employee assumes full time employees work about 2,000 hours per year, and staff accordingly. If now I have an employee working only 1,000 hours per year (regardless of if the time is paid through PTO or unpaid, or covered by FMLA) and I don’t see the work falling behind, I may well want to reclassify a position to be half time (and not benefit eligible) versus full time to save money. Not saying this is the case with OP, but I have listened to employees talk about using unpaid time off and “why does it matter to the employer?” and this is why: we plan on working taking a certain amount of hours to complete. When the employee helps you realize it doesn’t take that many, it could be a cost effective measure to re-categorize the position. It’s a risk you run when you start taking unpaid and unprotected leave.

          8. LBK

            Completely agreed. As if living with a chronic condition isn’t shitty enough, you also don’t get to do anything fun because you spent so much time being sick! How compassionate.

          9. Anon on this one

            Yep. I took a week of “vacation” for surgery last year, because I’d used up all my sick time on the issue leading to the surgery. It sucked.

      2. paul

        We use a PTO bank rather than sick leave & vacation time; so I know how much it sucks to have medical stuff kill hoped for vacations.

        But it happens. And frankly, your personal financial situation surrounding the vacation isn’t really relevant to your employer.

      3. AnotherAlison

        I guess I am struggling with the idea that if this vacation was so important, why wouldn’t you talk to your manager? I have similar vacation practices at my work, but my two-week 20th anniversary trip next month been on the department calendar for several months.

        I don’t know exactly what it is, but something rubs me the wrong way. Lots of people don’t get to take vacations. Lots of people grew up poor, and took a long time to afford nice trips. Many people have medical issues. My honeymoon happened two years after my wedding, so I get. I definitely understand your thinking, but I would keep this type of discussion to the AAM blog or for venting to your husband. It has nothing to do with your job or deserving time off from work.

        1. LW/OP

          Oh, I’m definitely not planning on giving the sob story to my boss. It’s just background as to why I feel so strongly about it and why it’s such an emotional/serious thing for me and to give y’all some context.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Totally understood! I was inclined to push back because I was worried that that emotional investment may be clouding your perception of your manager’s concerns/reactions (and I’m reading in that that may be the concern for others, too). I have to admit, when I read that you’re tempted to share that you quit a prior job, I definitely thought, “Oh no, OP’s emotions are on high alert, and it’s going to undermine their argument with their boss.”

          2. soon 2 be former fed

            Apply for a formal reasonable accommodation in accordance with the ADA if your employer is in the USA and is large enough. This will separate the issue of disability-related time off and vacation and protect you also.

            1. Observer

              Yes, but giving her extra time for a vacation / honeymoon would be unlikely to fall under “reasonable accommodation”. Unless the doctor says that it’s actually likely to help the insomnia, it’s kind of hard to make the argument that she needs the vacation to enable her to do her job.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale

          I agree; if a trip is very important, it makes sense to discuss it well in advance. I’m going on a week-long vacation in a couple of weeks, and my boss has known about it for months, even though I don’t have to ask permission. This helps us plan projects, for one thing, and for another, it means that if something happens and I can’t go on the trip for whatever reason, we can talk about it. I would have these conversations now, when you can actually come up with a solution without feeling rushed or anyone feeling cornered.

          1. Lil Fidget

            I wonder if there’s a way, if OP talks to boss NOW about this trip, for her to ask “how can I best make sure I’m meeting X deadlines and Y workloads” so that it comes across as more collaborative, but you are still taking the trip. Is there something else she could offer to throw in, like working some extra hours in advance (I recognize the FMLA makes this tough) or working over a different holiday that is tough to staff?

            1. Jules the 3rd

              I like this!

              Also, I haven’t seen ‘amended schedule’ as part of the proposal – could you offer to stay later on days when you would usually only work 6 hrs due to the insomnia?

            2. AvonLady Barksdale

              Exactly. That’s how I would approach it. It’s in your best interest to have the discussion with the aim of working out a compromise or solution.

        3. Tallulah In The Sky

          That’s quite harsh, I don’t get why you feel this isn’t a legitimate question/concern that should have been left in the comments. For one, Alison deemed it worth it enough to deserve its own post.

          This trip is the LW’s honeymoon, but also a trip she’s been planning for and hoping for for years. She’s aware her absence due to her illness, and I think it is a perfectly good question to ask how you can achieve a certain result while knowing the other party has valid reasons to deny you. I don’t see what is rubbing you the wrong way exactly.

          If it’s usual for the company to block vacation days maximum two months beforehand, and that the LW there’s usually no problem to take a week of, I can understand why she didn’t ask for it sooner. What she’s worried about is the sick and vacation time she took during one month where her condition flared up, something she couldn’t predict. To realize this could be an issue later on, again I don’t see what the problem is with asking how to best proceed.

          It’s also just not about taking the vacation this year. The trip has already been paid for, so she’d be losing money (money that they apparently took a long time to save).

          1. Observer

            The OP comes across as feeling entitled and as though the boss would be unfair to deny permission.

            It comes through clearly in their mention of their prior job, and their impulse to mention it. Their impulse is, effectively, to threaten to quit over this. And they are comparing the current situation to a prior situation where the employer actually broke a promise.

            1. Jules the 3rd

              meh – the OP’s comments above, that the insomnia flared up after the trip was planned, was my assumption about how it happened. I think you’re reading the ‘entitled’ into the post.

              But I
              1) have several chronically ill / disabled / struggling friends
              2) have planned a trip a year in advance

              so I have seen more people trying to figure out how to make it work.

              1. Observer

                With all of the additional information the OP posted, it’s much easier to understand where they are coming from. But the initial response of a lot of people is to the initial letter, in which these things were said. Some of the initial responses also seemed more focused on why it’s so important that they be given the time rather than an acknowledgement of the issues the situation presents to the employer. Yes, those reasons deserve sympathy, but without the rest of the context, I can see why a lot of people didn’t see it as really justifying the original letter.

            2. Thursday Next

              I’d say LW seems invested, not “entitled.” The information offered by LW in these comments seem like they were meant to explain why this trip was so important to the letter writer, and why it has taken so long to plan, so that we here could have a better understanding of the letter writer’s position.

              Given how much significance this trip holds for the LW, I can see why the prospect of discussing the trip with management is anxiety-provoking, and why the prospect of not getting the vacation time approved would cause serious disappointment.

              That being said, LW, it could help you to imagine the prospect of not being able to go on the trip; for reasons cited by Alison and others here, it’s a real possibility. It could help you temper your emotional investment in the trip when having the discussion with your boss. I’m not saying you won’t get approval, or you shouldn’t get approval—just that sitting down with that possibility could help desensitize you a bit, and and that might help you approach your manager with more confidence.

              I hope this makes sense.

        4. Delphine

          …but I would keep this type of discussion to the AAM blog or for venting to your husband.

          The OP was providing additional information to explain why this trip had been booked at a time when she has had to take a lot of time off to deal with an illness. Your framing of it as petty venting is unnecessary.

      4. Penny

        I agree with the other commenters. Unfortunately, none of that really matters when it comes down to taking even more time off work after already missing so much and making your manager unhappy.

      5. Friday

        I do get that, OP, and good job on saving up for this special vacation. But because it took a while to save up the funds is all the more reason that you shouldn’t possibly jeopardize your income by forcing a vacation at work while you’re going through a FML situation. You want your vacation to be special, especially since it’s your honeymoon and you haven’t had a good trip in a long time…. but if you do it this summer, it sounds like you’ll probably be bringing the stress of both your medical situation which isn’t under control yet, and your work’s reaction to it on your trip.

        Personal thoughts: my husband and I haven’t had a really good long vacation in about seven years, and this year we actually would have the finances to do it. But, I just came back from maternity leave and he took a paternity leave right after getting a promotion, so we’re not going to do the big trip this summer, even though we very much want to. We decided to do a few weekends away instead and hunker down at work for a while.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          I like the schedule weekend now, big trip in a year or two, as a way to not load too much emotional significance onto the big trip. Don’t make it have to be preternaturally perfect to live up to all the hopes and dreams invested in it.

            1. Friday

              Because she didn’t have the money. But now she does. And presumably, if she and husband were to use some of it on a smaller weekend or two this year, they’d still have time to replenish that for a nice big trip next year.

            2. RUKiddingMe

              And sometimes that’s just life. We’re adults. We know we can’t always have things the way we want them no matter how hard we try or how long we say “in a year or so.” It sucks and I feel for OP, but it just might be that she has to accept that the honeymoon/vacation is just not going to happen this year…again.

      6. Falling Diphthong

        I’m going to echo Paul that, while I’m sympathetic to the background of why you want this trip, and now, those reasons likely aren’t very relevant to your employer. Even with one-off family events (Grandma’s 100th birthday, birth of niece, child’s graduation) employers are usually more focused on your absence’s impact on them, not your reasons for taking this particular trip. And here you can’t play the “this is a one-off event with timing completely out of my control” card regarding the timing.

        As comes up with whether only parents get flex time, your reasons for wanting anything other than sick or bereavement leave shouldn’t come up–employees shouldn’t need to justify why their vacation is a worthy vacation and so time-off should be granted. I think Alison’s script is a good approach, and the extra context (family background to why you really want a vacation; citing your last job’s lack of flexibility as the reason you quit) isn’t going to work as well as a less cluttered request.

      7. Rachael

        Op, I want people to realize that when they say “because you have missed so much work already” they may unintentionally be saying “you can never go on vacation or take a personal day for yourself” and even worse “you should miss out on all the milestones and fun things that happen throughout your life (taking a honeymoon)”. So, are you supposed to miss family weddings, funerals, anything that takes you away that is not medically necessary? No fun at all?

        I understand their point of view but everyone needs to be able to take a vacation and the time off that you take for your medical leave is not a vacation. I would akin it to saying “because you took so much time off to care for your partner when they had cancer I can’t let you take any relaxing vacations”. It’s a medical issue that you cannot help and you are not staying home to putt around. You are taking care of your health and it should not be counted against something as important as a honeymoon.

        I am the type of person who would try writing down scripts to say that would diplomatically be asking how they will be approaching any future needs for time off that are not medically related. This seems to me to be setting a precedent that important things in your life will not be respected (and yes, I think it is important to do the things that normal people are allowed to do with you have an illness and not to be made to feel guilty).

        1. Colette

          The OP wants to take time off in August, which is often prime vacation time. That might mean that the people who have covered for her when she’s been out for medical reasons can’t take their (also well-deserved) vacation.

          I understand why she wants the time off, and maybe it will not be a problem – but if the manager says no, it’s probable that there is a good reason and not that she doesn’t respect the Op. She has to balance the needs of the entire team.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago

            She has to balance the needs of the entire team.

            This. OP’s coworkers are equally entitled to use their PTO benefits and if OP’s frequent absences are impacting that, then I can see where the manager might not be able to approve the vacation request.

            Yes, it sucks, but I also have a chronic illness and in the past have had to skip fun time off because I needed to use my PTO for health related things.

          2. RUKiddingMe

            That’s a very good point. OP’s coworkers who have been covering might feel that they want a vacation now and yet OP wants to take a vacation in August and so they have to set their own needs/desires on the back burner…again because of OP.

            I get that the medical stuff is not a choice. I am fully sympathetic to that and I am sure OP’s coworkers are as well, however goodwill is not endless.

            No matter how much one might care or sympathize, etc. eventually most people will be “hey what about me…I’m always covering for OP and now she just has to go on vacation while I want to, after I’ve done XYZ for her for ABC amount of time because of her illness. She could wait…” Etc.

            Illness or no illness, this constant disregard for the entire rest of the team will lead to resentment. Lots of resentment.

          3. Rachael

            Yes, but nowhere in her letter does she state that other coworkers want that time off. Balancing time off requests is different than denying time off due to days taken because of illness.

            1. yasmara

              But it would not be a stretch to assume that there *are* co-workers who would want time off in August in North America. The OP may not know of these plans, but her boss would.

      8. Bea

        My heart hurts that he’s never had a vacation and understand the desire being so strong. I was blessed to have yearly family vacations despite being a one income household, my parents were frugal and able to make it work while I had friends who’s families were much harder off. It’s why I’ll make jokes all day long about growing up in a trailer park but it meant I went to Disneyland and Yellowstone, so I’m not even mad.

        I truly hope this vacation works out for you two and it’s unforgettable. I also hope it’s the first of many.

        I’m a traveler by nature and want everyone to have the opportunity.

      9. Penny Lane

        You note that you and spouse were from poor backgrounds so that’s why this vacation is particularly important to you. Got it. Having said that – and this is not directed at you at all – it is my experience that part of why some people stay poor is precisely that – they think they are still entitled to a week at Disneyworld or a honeymoon in Hawaii or a cruise in the Caribbean because they see other people doing so. It leads them to make poor choices (taking out loans to finance a cruise!) when smarter moves would be to get out of all debt except possibly mortgage and don’t go on any vacations (other than stay-cations) until you can afford them. I’m worried that you can only afford this vacation because of a money tree in the first place – that suggests that you are living on the edge more than you may think, and given that you do have this chronic health condition it may be prudent to think long and hard about whether spending on a vaca is a good use of funds. I wish you the best.

        1. Det. Charles Boyle

          I was thinking along these same lines. Our culture really does prize conspicuous consumption and keeping up with the Joneses and it’s tough not to spend, spend, spend, even when we can’t afford it. Definitely don’t quit your job if your manager denies your vacation requestion, OP, unless you have another job lined up. I hope it all works out, though!!

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          This may be true, but the OP didn’t come here for financial advice. Having a chronic illness and growing up poor is not an open invitation for us to make recommendations about how she lives her life.

        3. TheBeetsMotel

          I think we should assume OP has the finances surrounding this in good order. Not sure a whole lot of good comes from speculating, and it comes off a little concern-trolly.

        4. LW/OP

          The money tree was the first thing; since then my husband has finished school and gotten an extremely well paying job that will allow us to pay off our debts completely in a few months AND afford for me to take a week unpaid for this vacation. There’s a lot of backstory that I don’t need to get into but suffice it to say we can definitely afford it. Going from student to full-time employee, especially in an in-demand trade like my husband’s, is like night and day finances wise.

          1. soon 2 be former fed

            You are nice to address this, your personal finances are nobody’s business. You might want to consider postponing the trip until after your insomnia is treated and you have improved your attendance.

            1. tangerineRose

              If you do postpone the trip until your insomnia is treated, you might enjoy the trip more, too. I’ve tried sightseeing when I wasn’t feeling well – it wasn’t as much fun.

          1. Saradactyl

            Yeah, this really smacks of “if only those damn millennials would stop with their avocado toast, they’d be able to afford a house!”

        5. TheBeetsMotel

          Let’s trust that the OP knows their situation financially. This comes across as a little concern-trolly.

      10. Argh!

        Compared to other reasons you might want to take leave, it would be semi-important to me as a supervisor if there would be hardship on the workplace. I’d be more inclined to grant leave for someone to take care of a family member recovering from surgery, or taking a dying grandmother to visit her childhood home, or taking a group cruise with your graduating class for your 25th anniversary, or going camping with your kid’s cub scout troop, or something else time-sensitive. So the details of not taking a vacation for a long time wouldn’t work on me. You never know what hardships other people in your workplace may have endured, so special pleading for this could be hit or miss.

        It also sends a bad message to coworkers to make plans before getting approval. I don’t think the FMLA issue would impact my decision, since your employer’s been accommodating unplanned absences already.

    2. Anon Today

      This is where I fall, too. A coworker had a surgery earlier this year – it was important for her health but not “emergency” surgery.

      Before the surgery, she and her boyfriend took several vacations, which exhausted her vacation time. She didn’t have a huge amount of sick leave accrued, so she was relying on short-term disability pay to cover her finances during the 4-6 week recovery period. Except she ended up with several complications from the surgery, extending her absence by over a month. I feel for her, but I have to admit to side-eyeing her for the vacations while *knowing* this major surgery was upcoming.

      1. Lizzy

        I guess I don’t really understand this… if she had her work covered and it didn’t affect you, why do you care how much she was gone??? Of course it’s different if she’s a flaky employee and doesn’t get her regular work done, but the way I see it is that it doesn’t really matter if someone wants to be gone a bunch as long as their work gets done and their boss is ok with it. As a coworker, I don’t think it’s any of my business what they’re doing when they’re not at the office. I would approach my boss if it got to be an issue (“Hey, So-and-so has been gone but I really need their input on this project. I can’t move forward without it. What should I do?”), but if it’s not an issue, then it’s not an issue.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          It’s relevant if your coworker if asking for your sympathy for this totally unforeseeable event. Or in some cases, asking everyone else in the office to donate their PTO to cover her time out.

        2. sunny-dee

          I think the thing is, this is like the 10th time they’ve asked for coverage. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. They covered for Vacation 1, Vacation 2, Vacation 3, Extended Weekend 4, 6 weeks for surgery / recovery, then another 4 weeks for medical complications. That last block is 10 weeks of coverage.

          That’s covering maybe 25% of the year for a single coworker. Even if any one time isn’t a big deal, it adds up.

          1. Anon Today

            This, and Falling Diphthong’s comment. She wanted sympathy and was complaining about being on LWOP (due to having exhausted all her other leave). And since we had to have coverage for her absences, another department was being short handed to lend someone to her desk, or someone was having to do double-duty. I’m not looking at the schedule right now, but I would say she has been at work *maybe* 3 weeks this year.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever

              I’m confused I thought you said your coworker took short term disability did they also use LWOP? Does your short term disability only last a short amount of time? To me 4 to 6 weeks for a health related surgery is the perfect reason to use short term disability as is another 4 weeks for complications from the surgery. If an employer offers short term disability I am going to use it when I need it, I would not be upset with a coworker for using it.

              1. Anon Today

                Yes, apparently the short-term disability is for a limited time (I’ve never used it so don’t know the details, only what she said). So when that ran out, with all other PTO exhausted, she was on LWOP.

                I wasn’t at all upset with her for using disability – that’s why we have it. It was just a huge combination of stuff that has left us covering for her most of this year. By sheer bad luck, the complications led to her continued absence during one of our busiest seasons. Obviously that can’t be helped, and we work around it.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever

                  Okay I guess I should consider myself lucky then our short term disability lasts for up to 13 weeks and I thought that was not that long. I understand I would be upset at the situation also having to deal with the overload that comes with one person being out for that long.

            2. not so sweet

              Ohhhh! I kept reading LWOP as “letter writer / original poster”, but you mean leave without pay. Nevermind.

        3. AnotherAlison

          To me, it’s like people who have savings accounts and people who don’t. We have PTO, so if you spend it all on vacation and get sick, suddenly it’s an emergency. We get 3-5 weeks/yr and can accrue up to 2x what you earn, so anyone who has been here any time at all should have a couple weeks banked for emergency illnesses, but not everyone does that. Some people take all their PTO as vacations every year. I don’t care what they do, but don’t expect the employer to do something special when you’ve exhausted all your paid leave, disability, FMLA, etc. It may not directly affect my work, but someone is doing those assignments while the person is gone more than everyone else is allowed.

          1. Lizzy

            and @Falling Diphthong and @sunny-dee –

            If it doesn’t affect you. So if it does affect you – in all of the situations you mentioned, then YES, I can see why it’s bothersome / annoying / cause for concern. If it’s just a random co-worker you notice has been gone, then why the side-eye/judgement?

            As long as Boss is ok with it and others aren’t affected, I don’t see why it matters if someone’s out repeatedly.

            1. AnotherAlison

              I struggle to imagine the scenario where the boss is okay with it and no one is affected. : )

              To me, the best-matching scenario would be where you’re overstaffed, or the OP is doing a full-time job that should really be part-time. I know there must be places like that, but I’ve never worked in one.

            2. CristinaMariaCalabrese (do the mambo like-a crazy)

              Because it’s ALWAYS affecting someone. The work has to get done, so someone else is doing the vacationer’s/surgery receiver’s/flu-haver’s job while they are out. When people continually fail to plan adequately (like leaving some PTO unused to cover any emergencies we all should know by adulthood that we might have), your pool of sympathy dries up, because that person is now abusing the system. This is also how you lose awesome workers, so managers should be encouraging people to plan their PTO “responsibly”. PTO and sick leave are benefits that everyone should have, but we all need to be aware that we don’t take them “in a vacuum”.

            3. Falling Diphthong

              What are jobs where your absence doesn’t affect anyone? (Where absence = not doing the work, rather than doing the work out of someone’s line of sight.)

          2. Michelle

            Unfortunately, not all jobs let you bank PTO.

            At my job, we have to use all of our vacation and personal time every year or we lose it. Sick time is the only thing that accrues and we only get 24 hours (3 days) per year. If you get the flu, that’s all of your sick time that year. You can use personal and/or vacation to cover the other days you need to be out, but it means you don’t get to accrue/bank any time.

            1. Anancy

              My old job had three weeks PTO to cover everything, you got it in a lump, and it was use it or lose it, and it expired for everyone in June. Which meant my office of 5 of us all held on to around a week’s worth and then juggled May so we could all use it all up. Luckily my manager was super understanding and flexible (and in the same boat!) but it was a pretty ridiculous set-up.

            2. Argh!

              Same here, and if you have a chronic illness there’s never any sick leave to carry over. (I’m in that situation) It sucks.

              We wind up with a lot of people being out of the office on random days in August just to use up their use-or-lose. They have that balance because they wanted to have some PTO in case they get sick! It’s a terrible system and I hate August every year! It’s virtually impossible to put together a team or working group, or get anything done that requires the input of more than 2-3 people.

            3. yasmara

              I do think part of this is influenced by whether your job has PTO with vacation & sick leave lumped together or has it separated. My company is like @Michelle, we have vacation that is use-it-or-lose-it in a given year (and managers are actually by policy made to encourage their employees to actually take ALL of their vacation time) and separate sick leave/short term disability leave. Sick time off accrues and is tracked separately – when it is exhausted, the employee may have to go on short-term disability leave or take unpaid time off, but there is quite a lot left up to the manager’s discretion. So when my co-worker’s husband had advanced ALS in his early 40’s (he also worked at the same company before going on medical leave), the management team was VERY supportive of her time off and if I’m remembering correctly we could even donate some time off to her.

          3. Branzino

            I’d be interested to know what you think about my job situation. I get three weeks of vacation and 6 sick days. We MUST take all our vacation prior to October 15. It does not roll over. If for some reason you use up your 6 sick days, you can use vacation to cover it, but it has to come from the sick days bucket first. So we either bank some vacation days to use in case we get sick the last 10 weeks of the year (and if you don’t use them, you lose them), or we take all our vacation and hope like hell we don’t use up too many sick days earlier in the year. Being out a week last year for emergency surgery meant I had to bank up some vacation days just in case and then I ended up losing two of them.

          4. AntsOnMyTable

            This is how I feel too. The amount of PTO you accrue at my job does vary a little bit (increasing the more years with the company) but roughly it amounts to 4 weeks of PTO and 1 week of PST (paid sick time – which can be used as vacation time). However, we get low workloaded on occasion so that can be used to get paid on those days which does decrease it. That being said I tend to keep at minimum 5 weeks worth of PTO just for “in case.” I get that I don’t have kids or whatnot but unless you have some chronic illness I do not understand when people have worked there for years and only have 3 or 4 hours of PTO and then things become dire for them. I can only sympathize with some life choices.

      2. Leslie knope

        Good lord, the comments in this post are awful. Americans have seriously drank (drunk?) the Koolaid of capitalism. You’re not a worthless human if you’re not working 100 percent of the time.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          This is an ironic comment for someone posting under the name Leslie Knope.

          No one is saying that the OP is a terrible person or that not working 100% of the time makes you worthless. What we are saying is that you have a responsibility to actually be at work and do your share.

        2. RUKiddingMe

          I think making a dig at “Americans” who are doing the best we can with the system we have been presented with is out of line. Most of us realize that things are better in places like Europe, and many, many, many people have been working to make things more “civilized” here, but no one thinks (almost no one) that we should be working 100% of the time. It’s just that we have yanno bills, families to support and precious little help from the government in terms of worker rights/benefits.

        3. Kay

          I’m not American and agree with most of these comments. Nobody is asking someone to work 100% of the time, or it wouldn’t be nice to have a vacation when you need or want one. But most commenters here are addressing the realities of a work environment which is that things don’t happen in a vacuum. Taking time off means farming out work, or having to hire a temp, or giving other people more work. The more that happens the harder it is on your work place, and it’s unrealistic to think that managers aren’t going to be happy about that.

    3. Avacado

      I have to be honest as a manager. If my employee is taking so much leave and cannot promise to take less, FMLA or not, if its enough you cannot come into the office until 5-6 hours later, but you have enough energy and time to plan on taking a once in a lifetime vacation – – – this just doesn’t add up to me.

      So if you have a flare up on vacation you will power through, but work requires FMLA and not powering through? Its not as if this FMLA is for treatment at the moment. And there’s no specialist even seen yet?

      As a manager I would see this as “Vacation is important, job is not”

      1. LW/OP

        I think you misunderstood my explanation; I never miss that much time. I spent at LEAST 5 hours in the office every day. Bad days result in me taking at most three hours off because that’s about how much sleep it takes for me to be functional enough to drive.

        And I have seen specialists, several, but none have given me results that work, so I’m seeing a new one this summer who is very busy(he’s the only specialist in my area I haven’t seen yet, as a matter of fact).

      2. Flinty

        I don’t think this is totally fair. Unless this is a weeklong backpacking trip, presumably if OP has a flare up on vacation she can just sleep in. I wouldn’t assume that she is planning to power through anything on the honeymoon.

        That said, I don’t think you’re alone in thinking that, and unfortunately the optics don’t look great for OP, especially if this is a butts-in-seats kind of workplace.

      3. Pretend Scientist

        Agreed–as much as I don’t want to say “optics”, it’s the perception that needs to be kept in mind. You are already saying that your boss feels that your attendance needs to improve.

        1. Penny

          +1

          Also, it sounds like it wouldn’t be an enjoyable vacation if you’re still having such bad health problems.

          1. AnitaJ

            I would posit that the vacation could still be enjoyable and possibly even assist with some of the health problems. The freedom of knowing that there are no work-related stressors that week may very well aid in the OP’s mental health and have a positive impact on her physical health.

          2. LBK

            I mean, the OP says if she can pick up a couple hours of sleep in the morning that helps a lot. It’s not like being on vacation will require being awake at 6am every day. Just being able to sleep in until 10 would help a lot and still leave plenty of time for activities.

        2. BRR

          “your boss feels that your attendance needs to improve,” I think this is a very important aspect to consider. I know this situation stinks and I’m sorry OP that you’re dealing with this, just be aware that you’re asking for time off after your boss has expressed concern over your attendance. It’s not that I’m telling you that you shouldn’t be able to take this time off or not to ask, only that the reality of the situation is not aligning with how things should be.

      4. Mike C.

        It doesn’t take all that much energy and time to plan a week long vacation, and there’s no set schedule in which to plan it. Work operates much differently and shouldn’t be compared directly like that.

        1. Tuxedo Cat

          Even if it took a bunch of time and energy to plan a vacation, the OP’s spouse is probably helping.

      5. Former Govt Contractor

        +1.
        The LW said she can actually go in to work and be minimally functional – I would rather be present all day and perhaps fall asleep at work so that everyone would at least know I was making an effort. And no vacation until this situation has resolved. I took my honeymoon 2 years after my wedding, and my husband and I haven’t been anywhere for the last 7 years due to finances, so I understand it sucks, but if you love your job, do what you can to hold on to it.

        1. Dragoning

          I don’t see how the optics of “Falling asleep at work” is better than the optics of “Isn’t around this morning”

          1. Jules the 3rd

            +1

            Especially ‘falling asleep and not getting work done’ vs ‘isn’t around but the deliverables are in’.

          2. Julia

            As someone who shared an office with a co-“worker” who often slept through the afternoon, falling asleep over the newspaper, not work, which everyone knew about and which meant I got to do more work, I agree.

        2. Oxford Coma

          If she’s that tired, she probably isn’t safe to drive. I don’t think encouraging her to groggily pilot two tons of metal every morning for optics is a great suggestion.

          1. LW/OP

            This is definitely another concern that has had me coming in later. I luckily don’t have a very long commute, but it is a very busy stretch that borders a school, and I do NOT want to be groggily dodging children and absent-minded parents.

      6. Property Manager

        I don’t think it’s fair to say that the OP spent so much time and energy planning a “once in a lifetime vacation” … especially if she doesn’t really go on vacations. My husband and I took what was literally my first vacation time from work that I ever took in my entire adult life and it was a very simple road trip, with little planning. She has also been wanting to take this trip for five years, so I’m sure the bulk of the planning was already done.

        Vacations are far underrated, and time off to relax is something we don’t value in America as much as we should.

        That said, yes this might be a hardship for the employer, but I think it’s only fair that there’s some discussion and compromise on both ends without assuming that the OP is not prioritizing her job. I mean, she still comes to work after sleeping 2 hours and actually enjoys her work — we have to think about things besides work once in a while to stay healthy and happy. There’s a time to prioritize work and there’s a time to prioritize yourself — it’s not all or nothing.

        This isn’t “not adding up” … it’s a normal person dealing with a disruptive health issue.

      7. Bea

        Part of my vacation plans is to lay in a hotel bed napping and watching bad daytime cable tv. It’s not like the OP said she’s planning 24hr marathons of ziplining in the Andes for a week. O.o

        I was hungover the first morning of my last trip because the savage barkeep didn’t tell me you don’t order well drinks in that area. I just threw open the window with an amazing view and snoozed until I could scrape my sorry butt off the bed for adventures that included a 5 mile walk through the city. Yes. I slept in the next morning too and was able to brunch with a best friend. Vacations vary drastically.

      8. Delphine

        Powering through on a vacation day is much different than powering through on a work day. How is that surprising?

      9. AnitaJ

        “So if you have a flare up on vacation you will power through, but work requires FMLA and not powering through?”

        Yes, if a chronically ill person has a flare up on a vacation they will deal with it accordingly. This possibility (as well as the fact that their illness may impact their job at some point) does not mean they should not take vacations.

        1. Observer

          Actually, the answer is generally “No, I won’t power through, because I WON’T NEED TO.”

          1. AnitaJ

            “Deal with it accordingly” is anything from “lounge around” to “go to the hospital”. I specifically did not use Avacado’s phrase “power through” because I don’t think that’s an accurate representation of the scenario.

            1. Observer

              No argument. My point was to be more explicit, without being TOO explicit. I mean, you don’t want to call your manager an idiot, but you want it to be crystal clear that when your on vacation, if you have a flare up there is absolutely no need for “powering through” so the question makes no sense.

      10. King Friday XIII

        Intermittant FMLA for symptoms is a thing. I’ve known people who had it for severe asthma, migraines, and other recurring issues. Also a manager who says “FMLA or not” you’re judging the employee for their absences is a manager I’m going to be watching like a hawk when review time comes around, because that’s half the purpose of FMLA.

      11. Seriously?

        Although most likely on vacation the OP would be able to sleep in and do things later in the day, which doesn’t work for her job. So even though the optics might look bad, it does make logical sense in way that isn’t prioritizing vacation over work.

      12. Erin

        I think it is really unfair to assume OP is always or usually able to “power through” but is choosing not to unless on vacation. She has clarified she works full days whenever she is physically able to, even on very little sleep. And there is no reason to believe that the plan is to power through flare-ups while on vacation instead of sleeping in.

      13. Llama Grooming Coordinator

        To defend OP’s honor (not that she needs me to), she can plan her vacation when she’s not having a flare up and when she’s not working. So I don’t know if the mere act of planning a vacation reads as her having her priorities out of whack. The information we have from the letter – where she already bought tickets – doesn’t reflect well on OP, but I don’t know if a manager would have that info. I know I don’t ask my team if they’ve already bought their tickets when they request vacation time.

        (To touch on the rest of it, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you’d hold OP’s FMLA against her if she were your employee. For multiple reasons, I’m not very comfortable with that viewpoint.)

      14. Observer

        Then your math isn’t too good.

        Seriously, I can see that it might not be unreasonable for the manager to veto the vacation. But the idea that “if you’re too sick to work, you’re too sick to take a vacation” and “if you are taking a vacation you must be faking about being sick” is nonsense. Sure, some people take highly active and sometimes stressful vacations. But for many people the main draw of the vacation is the lack of pressure. And, especially for an illness that is sensitive to stress, a vacation can actually be the best thing ever.

    4. Leave it to Beaver

      You have a vacation you desperately would like to take. You have a boss that may not give you the additional time off you need. You can tell your boss why this vacation is important to you, but you can’t force (or guilt) your boss to give you time off (at least not without damaging your relationship with your boss). It’s a sad fact that you had to use your PTO for your illness, but the company isn’t responsible for giving you more time. So while you may deserve a vacation, you’re not entitled to one. So, the question is what is more important to you: your job or your vacation? The answer to that question will dictate what your next steps should be.

      1. yasmara

        I think this is key. What you might want to happen is maybe not realistic given your situation. It sucks. USA vacation policies suck. Being sick sucks. But it sounds like you might be asked not to take this vacation, so you need to be prepared for that conversation & outcome.

  5. animaniactoo

    OP, as someone pulling out of the tail end of a medical issue, I feel you. I really really do. But sometimes, your current life doesn’t match up with what you want to do and what works for your job and your career and other plans.

    I get that you’ve been looking forward to this for so long, and that your flare-up at this point has not been under your control. But managing that means that sometimes you have to sacrifice some stuff in order for it not to have an impact – or an appearance of an impact – on the things you’re day to day responsible for. Even when you’re a high performer.

    I would still go in for this – but far more from a standpoint of you understand that you’re asking for something big here, and leave out any feelings or message of being entitled to it. Towards that, I would also make plans with your husband right now that are backup plans for “what if they say no? what can we do in the meantime to keep some special?” Is it booking a weekend away and delaying the honeymoon until next year while you get the flareup under control and you’ve been on FMLA for awhile and are more protected? What is it? Because having that in your pocket will help you be less crushed if your boss turns you down. And you’ll need that going forward here. Remember – they ARE already working with you over something that isn’t in their control either. So asking for them to work with you even more is not a minor thing, it really is a big ask and that’s how you need to view and approach it.

    Good luck, I hope you’re doing better soon!

    1. LW/OP

      Thank you for the advice. I hope to have a talk with my husband soon, and there is a chance that I might be able to get a good chunk of our money back if we have to cancel, so that’s a possibility that would be helpful.

      1. animaniactoo

        Check with the location – you might be able to leave it with the intent to reschedule for future either for free or for a minimal fee and you can factor that in to how you approach all of this.

      2. Redundant Department of Redundancy

        While it wasn’t medically related, we nearly had to cancel our honeymoon as my husband had failed a major exam and the resit was during our honeymoon (which was already booked). We had an action plan for if he failed (we could move the booking with the same deposit, but we’d loose an offer we’d gained when we first booked). However, when he told me he failed we first spoke to his boss, and we he was able to change to another date (something that he normally wouldn’t be able to do). By speaking to his boss early we were able to sort it out, and like others said it didn’t blindside his boss.

        Although when he called he did also explain that we moving the honeymoon was an option, it was just not a preferred option.

      3. Observer

        In that case, the sooner you have the conversation, the better. Because generally speaking, the earlier you cancel the better your chance of a refund.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Strong agree that OP should drop the feelings or messaging of being entitled to the honeymoon. I’m a little leery that the vacation has already been booked before getting the leave approved (not as a general rule, but in the specific context of what OP has described). And while it’s unfair to be penalized for a recurring medical issue, the reality is that OP’s medical leave may also be legitimately holding up work or may be burdensome to others in a way that justifies a manager’s reluctance to grant additional leave (even if it’s unpaid).

      It’s totally not right/fair that OP has to deal with the stress of uncontrolled flare ups and medical leave while also trying to take a long-planned and important trip. But if something has to give, it may be the trip this time. I’m so sorry, OP.

      1. LW/OP

        I mentioned it upthread, but we booked as soon as we had the shower since the money was there and I didn’t anticipate all of this health stuff happening. I don’t know if I should bring that up during our discussion to make it clear to her I wasn’t trying to force her hand with the booking, or if I should just let it lie so I don’t come across as trying to make excuses, which thanks to my love of wordiness I think I sometimes come across as.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Maybe don’t mention having booked the trip unless you have to? You don’t want to mislead or lie, and Alison’s script doesn’t require you to get into the details. But I do think it will read as trying to force her hand if you mentioned you’ve already booked the trip, because then it sounds like you’re going no matter what she says.

          1. LW/OP

            That was my initial plan, honestly, to not even bring up having booked it, but the reaction in the comments about having already booked it has kind of set me aback and now I’m definitely doubting my initial plans. I appreciate the reaffirmation.

          2. Falling Diphthong

            It might work as something like “After the shower, with the money to finally afford the trip we’ve been saving for for so long, we went ahead and booked it. I didn’t put in for leave because obviously the calendar is set up so we only do that two months out. At the time, my insomnia was under control and I didn’t foresee missing any work.” (This assumes that booking the vacation 6 months out and asking for the leave 2 months out is mundane and expected operating procedure in your office. You want to absolutely avoid any undercurrent of “I thought it would be easier–for me–if I asked forgiveness rather than permission.”)

        2. Observer

          You are probably best off not mentioning that you already booked. But, *if* you do mention it, you should clearly tell your manager how it came about.

    3. Penny2

      “I would still go in for this – but far more from a standpoint of you understand that you’re asking for something big here, and leave out any feelings or message of being entitled to it.”

      This is what I keep coming back to, too. Taking time off for fun or for medical is only slightly different in the eyes of the boss, absence is absence, only one is a little more forgivable. Still, every time the boss sees an empty seat (if OP isn’t working from home when she’s there), rings out loud and clear to her. The holiday already being booked needs to be addressed with the boss immediately, but her approval may very well come along with a sigh and a look.

  6. Snubble

    It’s only three months away. I understand the need to fit in with your company culture, but three months in advance, for something that has been planned and talked about all year, isn’t unreasonable, and I think it’s much riskier to leave it too late than bring it up too early. You might seem pedantic doing it now but if you don’t ask until a few weeks before it seems like taking for granted that you can have whatever dates suit you.
    (I’ve had my August week booked since January. The culture here does not favour booking anything – flights, hotels, anything – until you’ve got your leave confirmed, so sometimes you have to nail down your plans a year in advance. The trade-off is that my August week is absolutely rock-solid and even if the office catches fire they won’t try to call me in. But that might be biasing my response here.)

  7. LW/OP

    OP here

    First off Alison, thank you for answering my letter! I really appreciate the perspective and the wording to use.

    Just to address a couple of things Allison brought up: I am not behind on any work, and while the summer is our busy season, by August it will have wound down significantly to the point where I could be away for a week and I don’t think it would be too significant of an issue. Most of the staff in my position are pretty laid-back and our work reflects it; we have a lot to do but it always gets done on time, and since I’m significantly younger and faster than other staff, I have no trouble making up for lost time when it comes to completed tasks. Unfortunately, my manager doesn’t have direct knowledge of my work: full disclosure, I’m an admin assistant and I cover five ladies plus an additional project that is my own individual assignment. The manager doesn’t really know if I complete my work for them well, just that they don’t come to her to complain about it. I know for a fact my ladies would support me if I asked them to make it clear to the boss that my absences have not affected my work or the timely completion of it. So now I’m wondering if I should chat with them and get their firm support before I approach my boss, or not?

    Unfortunately, the closest other specialists are in a town that’s a three hour drive one-way, which means a) seeing if they even have any openings sooner than my current initial appointment with a specialist after scouting which one might be a good choice, and b) taking at least one full day off to go see them, probably followed by several more days off for follow-ups and medication adjustments since typically you have to see a doctor here before you can be prescribed a new medication. I’m just not sure if that is tenable right now on top of my occasional small absences.

    1. Akcipitrokulo

      I hope it works out – it could be that the honeymoon will help with your general health.

      Approaching up front with an acknowledgement that it isn’t ideal, amd concrete proposals for lessening the impact could help.

      But possibly a cultural thing – I’m not really seeing an issue. If you’re ill, and take time off, that has nothing to do with holidays!

      1. animaniactoo

        Definitely a cultural thing – I prefer yours! But here it’s part of the bread-and-butter bootstraps mentality of toughing stuff out, powering through, and “making it up” if you can’t.

        1. Akcipitrokulo

          A few years back I was off for an extended sick leave. It would never have occurred to me that I shouldn’t take holidays afterwards as usual… and the ones I had booked before getting ill were converted to sick days, so I got them back to use later that year. Because that’s standard procedure!

          1. Lynn

            I was given a hard time for not cancelling two vacation days (when I had hundreds of hours in the bank) after emergency surgery when I came back to work several days before my doctor recommended. It was…. demoralizing.

        2. Akcipitrokulo

          Now there were discussions around the illness, and whether that would be a long term issue, and I probably could eventually have been let go for it.

    2. animaniactoo

      fwiw – as someone who has recently been through a sudden incapacitating thing – it is likely far more likely that you will get support for prioritizing getting help for the issue and taking time off to do that.

      I really do feel for you – I just graduated out of PT last night, and now have to work on getting myself to work on time in the mornings again. Even getting the issue nailed down and resolved was back-and-forth pushing and I expected more support for it than I got. But I DID get what I needed to get it resolved. Asking for anything beyond that at this point? I’m nowhere near it and I know it. Maybe in a few months when I’ve been more reliable again.

    3. LSP

      I would definitely speak to the people you do work for, and let them know you will be making the request of your manager. They may very well volunteer to support you in your request, but I’m not sure I’d ask them directly. I’d probably say, “I’m going to be asking Jane now about time off for my honeymoon in August. I wanted to give you the heads up, in case she asks you for input about me missing a week after having missed so much time due to my health issues.”

      At that point, if you are the stellar employee you described, they should jump at the chance to back you to your manager about what good work you do, and how they are sure they can manage without you for a week.

      Good luck!

    4. Chriama

      I don’t think trying to get their support before you approach your boss is a great idea — he might see it as you trying to pressure him to agree. But you should try to have them make it more known to him that you’re doing great work. Right now he probably has you categorized as “decent worker with lots of attendance issues”. If that perception could be changed to “stellar worker with unfortunate medical issue” that might help in other aspects of your work life.

    5. EA

      I would ask the people you support and phrase it like asking if they have any pending projects during that time.

      Also, I think being an admin makes this different. You might be on top of your Day to Day, but when you are gone I imagine someone needs to cover (phone,visitors) which impacts other people. I would talk to your boss and prioritize treatment even if you need to take time off for it.

      1. Genny

        In my experience, admin roles tend to be very butts-in-seats regardless of how busy the company is. Frequent absences in this role, even if only 2-3 hours, would be more likely to require consistent coverage. I’m not sure how deep your admin pool is, LW, but it could be that the same 2-3 people are constantly covering your absences and feel like they can’t take time off because of that. So your boss may not be considering whether or not your work gets done if she grants this leave request, but also the impact on the people who have to cover (and have been covering) for you.

        1. LW/OP

          I had meant to mention this but I think I didn’t; there are five other admins in our department, with a similar ratio of staff they cover, though some have fewer projects and have made it know they are the go-to for coverage since they can do more. None of us are receptionists and we answer very few phone calls and have almost no visitors, so aside from being able to handle things that come up, there isn’t a lot of direct need for butts in seats as long as our work for our specialists gets done.

          1. Lizzy

            Sounds like my type of “admin” – I’m technically an admin, but I really don’t NEED to be in the office that often. I can (and do) work from home occasionally, and as long as it’s not ALL the time and my stuff gets done, it doesn’t matter necessarily how much “butt in seat” time I have.

          2. Argh!

            Wow, it’s so rare to hear from a LW whose office isn’t totally dysfunctional. Where I work lots of people have the same skills and knowledge, or can be brought up to speed, but our corporate culture is very rigid. Work doesn’t get done because of this — often! You are very lucky to work in a sane system!

            1. LW/OP

              It is truly wonderful to be in a job that is this functional! Especially after leaving my last job, which was a toxic cesspool.

      2. BadWolf

        I have a friend who’s an admin and sometimes they have a front desk admin that needs a lot of coverage. This is a burden of various weights for her when she has to cover for them. Whether it’s throwing off the morning plans because admin is late or bailing on lunch plans because admin is gone a long time. Surprise days off. Things are handled, but it doesn’t come for free.

    6. fposte

      I wouldn’t involve “the ladies.” You already know your work for them is okay, so if the manager needs to check, you’re good. Involving them in advance runs the risk of looking like you’re pressuring your manager, which is already a risk if she finds out that this is a vacation that’s been booked before the time was approved.

      In the office you describe, I think it’s perfectly possible for you to get the week off; it’s also still reasonable for your manager to say no. I think you’ll have a better future there if you seem equally prepared and understanding of both possibilities.

    7. SpaceNovice

      It might be worth it to get an appointment sooner if possible, even if they ARE three hours away. It may not be possible, though, if you need a specialist that really knows their stuff (I had to wait four or five months for a thyroid specialist, myself). You should at least do some research into what information the specialist would want you to gather so you can fast track, like food or sleep journals, regardless of which doctor you choose; maybe even call up the office to ask.

      Also, as everyone else said: definitely go talk to your manager. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this, OP. Insomnia is awful.

    8. Susan Sto Helit

      I sympathise – it’s awful going through work feeling like you’re in a haze, and then trying to sleep and feeling like your brain just won’t switch off.

      Do you mind if I ask what general lifestyle things you’re trying to deal with it, alongside seeing a doctor? I’m sure you get this all the time so it’s just annoying, but maybe someone on here will have some experience of something you haven’t tried yet?

      No coffee after midday, white noise machine/wave sounds, no eating after a certain time, a book to read/audiobook to listen to when you’re too alert, aromatherapy solutions, blackout curtains/eye mask, exercising in the evening…does anyone have any other solutions that have worked for them? (Accepting that in the case of chronic insomnia they may all be useless, but others on here might benefit).

      1. Lauren

        You forgot no screens in the bedroom. Warm milk. Herbal tea. Hot baths. Yoga. Meditation. Don’t stay in bed. Cool room.

        People with chronic insomnia know all these things. Anyone who has had chronic insomnia will be googling in desperation and every single article mentions all these things. Every doctor will run through all those things first before progressing. We know every tip, every trick, every hint, and have tried EVERYTHING.

        1. Susan Sto Helit

          I apologise. I suffer from insomnia only occasionally, so I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for you.

        2. LW/OP

          Hey, I haven’t tried warm milk! But then again, I’m violently lactose intolerant, so if it worked it’d be me falling asleep worshipping the porcelain throne.

          1. misspiggy

            I just wanted to add, in case it hasn’t already been mentioned, that melatonin enabled the chronic insomniac in my life to sleep – not well, but just enough – when nothing else had made a dent.

          2. Jules the 3rd

            That sucks! I’m also lactose intolerant, but haven’t had nausea, just the rest of it, on fairly small traces of lactose.

            It affects my sleep, tho – have you considered / tried the ‘fast acting’ Lactase pills (9,000iu of Lactase enzyme) 2x/day ? I used to use Schiff’s 15k iu once a day, but they discontinued it. My drugstore has bottles of 120 pills for $20, so about $10/mo if you use them 2x/day. It’s been a huge improvement on my son’s and my quality of life.

            I hope you’re able to take your dream vacation *sometime*. I had mine last summer. I did have to delay it a year, so I feel your pain, but it worked out better in the end.

          3. Observer

            If you haven’t done this, check if you are intolerant to other stuff as well – these things go together surprisingly often, and rarely get checked for.

            If you have a low level allergy or you are sensitive to something else, then that could be messing with your sleep in ways that you wouldn’t even realize. It might not even be the whole story, but anything that helps even somewhat must be an advantage.

      2. Hope

        Taking a warm bath before bed often helps my insomnia. Also, having a notepad/pen next to my bed so I can write down the things swirling through my head that are keeping me up. Even if you can’t fall asleep, going through the routine and just closing your eyes to relax is better than no rest at all; I find that a lot of the time, when I stop pressuring myself to go sleep, it becomes easier to actually fall asleep.

        Also–if you’re sleepy when you get home, go ahead and go to bed/take a nap if at all possible. Some sleep is better than no sleep (and you might get lucky and actually stay asleep for like 10 hours…it doesn’t happen to me often, but when it does, it’s glorious).

        Chronic insomnia is the worst.

        1. LW/OP

          I love the notepad thing because it has helped calm my thoughts a lot; I picked it up a few years back. Sadly even once my thoughts calm I still can’t sleep.

      3. Lil Fidget

        Oh dear, I really don’t think we should get into advising OP on managing their insomnia, that’s not what she requested help with (although of course I understand the impulse). But OP states their already seeing a doctor, can we just say that prioritizing medical care for this condition needs to be their #1 priority and leave off the warm milk suggestions? It can be super frustrating to get those HAVE YOU TRIED X comments when you’re already all up on the management for your condition.

      4. LW/OP

        I don’t drink coffee or even any caffeine aside from an occasional coke when I eat out. I have blackout curtains and a white noise machine, and I do like to read but I can’t always do that because my husband has to go to sleep early. I do exercise after I get off work in the evenings.

        FWIW, I’ve tried natural methods(teas, melatonin, plants like st. john’s wart, etc. aromatherapy, homeopathy, yoga, exercise, meditation, listening to things to fall asleep) , medical solutions (CPAP, chiropractic), medication(anti depressants, anti psychotics, anti anxiety, ambien, lunesta, various benzos, etc.). Probably a few other things I can’t think of right now. Honestly, some things have worked but only for a very limited period of time. I have a lovely memory of a couple of years where trazadone worked for me pretty well, but then I topped out on the dosage and ended up with horrible side effects :(

        1. Lizzy

          Are you sure you’re not my husband?? lol

          but seriously – he was basically in the same boat. It took him YEARS to finally find the right dosage of the right types of medicines and taking them at the right time to finally get it all figured out. Now he sleeps more than I do! (and I love me some sleep… naps, sleep til 10am… the whole deal lol)

          You will get there. It takes time, and I can’t imagine how frustrating it is in the interim, but there is a magical solution out there for you – you just have to find it. *hugs*

          1. LW/OP

            That thought process was one of the only things that kept me alive the last time I was in a toxic job and a bad flare-up cycle, it’s what I cling to. One day I’ll be okay, just not today.

        2. Seriously?

          Completely unrelated, but I actually got a kindle because I wanted to read but my fiancé needed the lights out.

          1. Oryx

            Night mode on devices is the best. My SO stays up late, I wake up early so we can both read without waking up the other.

          2. LW/OP

            Yep, I have a really solid night mode app on my phone that really helps if it’s an ebook or such.

            1. anony-mouse

              Speaking of apps, there is an app called sleep cycle, which helps you wake up at an opportune moment in your sleep cycle while you are in light sleep, so you feel better rested that when your alarm rings during a deep sleep phase.

              I personally don’t use it but my husband and several of his friends do and they all report that they’ve been feeling better in the morning and then also sleeping better since using it regularly.

              Also, some of them said it’s a psychological help to see how many sleep cycles you actually got that night.

        3. Argh!

          Insomnia can also be caused by hormone disorders and immune system disorders. I hope the specialist can get to the root of it.

        4. A

          Have you tried having a baby? I had insomnia and then had a baby and I was too tired for insomnia!
          … OP I am being a bit tongue in cheek here it’s hard not not to jump in and give well-meaning advise that, with a bit of reflection, I’m sure you’ve heard many times before; I did have / occasionally do have insomnia too. I’m sure mine is different especially since it pretty much never got to the point of needing to take time off work. (vaguely hallucinating, perhaps, but usually I just power through; helped that most of the time it was at its worst I did not have to drive; I would take the train or bike). Ultimately I think mine was a combo of delayed sleep onset and mild mood disorders (vague depression when circumstances were vaguely depressing, vague hypomania when I get really excited about work + have to sleep minimally anyway) I wish you luck on your quest and hope to hear how things work out with your trip.

      5. Observer

        As others noted, the OP is seeing a doctor. Any halfway decent doctor will have discussed these things as well as the additional things that Lauren mentioned (and a few others.)

        I know you meant this kindly, but dealing with this kind of elementary advice at a point where you’ve been dealing with and researching your problem for months or years gets exhausting and stressful.

        So, for all the kind folks who just want to help – when you are talking to someone who is dealing with chronic illness that they’ve have for a significant amount of time, the best way to help is to not share advice unless you know that it’s something really new, or a thing that doctors commonly overlook. The basics? Skip it, please.

        1. Argh!

          As someone who has been overweight for decades, I have had a few people think all I needed was advice they parroted from Prevention Magazine or Doctor Oz. As if there’s a fat person alive who hasn’t already tried everything!

      6. LilyP

        Not to drag this out because I agree the lifestyle suggestions probably aren’t useful, but just because you mentioned in your letter than you can normally fall asleep eventually — would it be feasible to just start going to bed 2-3 hours earlier? Or would that mean you just lie awake for 7 hours instead of 5? I know it can be super hard to change sleep rhythms and it would suck to lose your free evenings, but it might be a stopgap so you can make it to work on time more often while you’re waiting on a specialist

        1. LW/OP

          It would mean lying awake for longer; it is a path I’ve tried before with no success. My sleep pattern is pretty locked-in, unfortunately. Even when I worked a job where I had to be up at 4am I very rarely could sleep before then when I went to bed at 7.

    9. Turanga Leela

      OP, I’m worried reading this, and I want to share a recent experience I had. My administrative assistant was fired recently. She was a pool secretary, so she assisted several of us, and we loved her—she was efficient, her work was accurate, we never complained. But she had medical issues, and on top of that she was frequently late. The attorneys she assisted didn’t mind, because she got everything done regardless, but the office manager didn’t ask us. The office manager and other administrative leadership thought she was unreliable, so they fired her.

      I’m not saying this would happen to you, but it sounds like you (like my former assistant) have a job where the perception of your value hinges on your being at work, even if that doesn’t capture how good you are at your job. And the ladies may not have much pull.

      1. Lil Fidget

        This is what FMLA is intended to prevent though! People shouldn’t be fired for medical conditions (although of course it does happen).

        1. fposte

          I think we’re talking about that middle area, where you can be fired for unreliability even if a medical condition is the cause, so long as FMLA/ADA law isn’t breached. If you don’t have an accommodation for flexible start times and you keep showing up late, FMLA isn’t going to save you.

          1. soon 2 be former fed

            This is why folks should negotiate an ADA agreement as soon as a medical condition interferes with attendance. Mine was a protective godsend. Telework/flextime worked great in meeting the needs of both sides, that may not e your solution but until you explore the universe of available accommodations and negotiate accordingly, you won’t know. Protect your job.

        2. Samata

          My understanding is that FMLA protects you from being fired for medical reasons but if you can’t actually perform the functions of your job it does not protect against you getting fired for not fulfilling your job duties to satisfaction. But IANAL so there’s that.

      2. LW/OP

        Yeah, I’ve seen that happen and I’m very, very aware of the potential. Thankfully I’ve cultivated good relationships with everyone. Even my boss and grandboss come to me for important things and they have seen first hand how good I am when it comes to the individual projects they give me. So I’m not too worried about losing my job unexpectedly…but it is one more stressor in the back of my mind.

        1. Observer

          That’s good. Nevertheless, you need to be really careful about how this trip would be perceived.

        2. EditorInChief

          No one is indispensable though. If one employee is fomenting resentment among an entire team, no matter how valuable you think you are, who do you think is on the short list for layoffs? Unless you are a rainmaker, you cost your company money. It’s not that difficult to replace an admin.

          1. aes_sidhe

            Someone my grandmother knew said they were “indispensable to the company.” My grandmother told that no one was indispensable, not even the President of the United States.

      3. Argh!

        Fortunately, the sleep studies provide proof in case HR requires it. I think LW is safe on the FMLA front unless HR decides the accommodations are unreasonable. Since they decided they were reasonable at the outset, it would be tough for them to reneg on it.

    10. Nita

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this! I had a stress-induced bout of insomnia a few years ago and know how bad it can get. I had to make some very drastic life decisions to cut the stress, because it was getting to the point where commuting to work was becoming unsafe. Hopefully the specialist can help you sort this out.

      You should definitely enlist the women you work with directly, and then talk to your boss about the vacation and why it shouldn’t affect your work too badly. Maybe it will all work out. It’s only a week after all! I think it does make everything harder that you’re an admin and will presumably need someone covering for you, but hopefully you’ve got a plan for the backup coverage. But, yeah, the boss might say that they can’t allow any more time off given all the sick time you’ve had… it’s not really fair if you’re not behind on your work, but this stuff is at the boss’s discretion and it’s hard to fight against the perception that you shouldn’t be taking optional time off when you’re already out a lot.

    11. INTJ

      As someone with chronic illnessses, including insomnia, I get it. I really do. Last Monday, I was up for 33 straight hours by the time I got off work. It sucks, and I’ve also had stretches of days, into almost a month, at a time of sleeping three or four hours a night. I haven’t had a vacation in years due to using all of my sick/vacation time for various illnesses.

      You seem to be assuming that, after you see this one specialist, it’ll cure everything rather than having the realistic expectation that you may need more time off if this doesn’t work. It becomes a question of what are you planning on doing if you end up using all of your sick/vacation days, FMLA, and still need more time? If you do need more time, how are you going to deal with your boss if she says no to you leaving three hours frequently?

      1. LW/OP

        I know I will probably continue to need time off, but I’m hoping I can keep it down to an hour or two every week, which is much more manageable and will extend my FMLA time for longer. It’s a juggling act and I really don’t know how things will turn out, but I don’t know what I can do now to prepare for if things go poorly.

    12. soon 2 be former fed

      EEK! Younger doesn’t necessarily mean faster when it comes to office work. Sometimes, experience makes one faster (learning curve and all), and maybe more accurate. I’m with you, but can’t get with ageism. I hope your honeymoon goes off as planned.

      1. LW/OP

        A lot of the people older than me are very very skilled! I definitely didn’t mean to come across as agist, just to explain why I feel I’m a high producer; I’m more adapted to computers and technology than some of them, and they are definitely more knowledgeable in a lot of ways and we trade off helping each other. I just happen to pick up on things faster than most people my own age and even those older, which I think is a valuable skill, at least for now.

  8. mark132

    Without trying to sound insensitive, it is work, and if you are missing a lot days for whatever reason, at some point you have to actually meet your work obligations. If you are barely meeting your obligations currently taking yet more time off is going to be difficult to approve.

    I think to some extent this is also for the morale of your coworkers. I know you say they are supportive, but even the most supportive coworkers can get a bit grumbly when a coworker takes off yet more time, when they have already taken so much

    1. LW/OP

      I’m definitely not missing a lot of days (only a few hours every week, max) and already going above and beyond meeting my obligations. I’ve already taken on additional work this year while I’ve been struggling with this issue, so I know I’m good as far as work goes. I just get the impression from my boss that she’s a “butts in seats” kinda person :/

      And I’m definitely trying to be sensitive to the morale issue, because as you said, it’s hard to see people taking time off even when you logically know the medical exceptions. I’ve cultivated good relationships with everyone and I think I have a pretty positive helpful personality that I hope helps keep me on people’s good sides.

      1. Lizzy

        Then DEFINITELY talk to your boss. Maybe even mention that you get the impression she’s a “butts in seats” type of person? That way you could say something like “I get the feeling you like face-time with your staff, and I wanted to say how much I appreciate you working with me on my illness and me being gone. I want to reassure you that I’m doing everything possible to get this under control, and I’m already doing A, B, and C to make sure I miss as little in-office time as possible. In fact, I really have only been missing a few hours each week! I’d be happy to stay longer on days I feel up to it or work through my lunch or… “

      2. AnotherAlison

        I will take you at your word that you are meeting your obligations, but I do think non-“butts in the seat” people don’t understand “butts in the seat” people. I’m the latter. In my line of work, people are often assigned defined tasks A, B, and C, but tasks D, E, and F come up during the day due to the nature of our business, and may suddenly become more important than what you planned to do that day. Time-sensitive questions also come in, and if I need an answer by 9, you’re scheduled to be in by 8:30, but you might not show up till 10, I’m in a difficult position with deciding how to respond to the client. I don’t really care what someone’s schedule is, but I need people at work or online when they say they will be.

        1. Let's Talk About Splett

          I’ve been an admin a long time and to a certain extent, almost every admin position is a butt in the seat job – you are expected to be available for support during certain core hours.

        2. mediumofballpoint

          Seconded. I have a coworker who’s out of the office a lot and I think it’s left her with a slightly skewed sense of what a typical workload in our office looks like. We end up covering a lot of her work, so it still gets done and looks like a success to her. She also misses a lot of the last minute/extra work/crises that arise, so it looks like we’re covering for her without a problem when that’s not always the case.

      3. Avacado

        This comes across as defensive.

        MIssing a few hours every day is someone not there when possibly needed. . . . To pick up the phone, do a rush project, answer a colleagues questions, etc.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I didn’t read it as defensive, but I agree that missing 3 hours more than once a week is going to look more absent than missing a full day. I know that’s counterintuitive, but the frequency with which the manager may see OP “out of office”—even it isn’t a full day—contributes to the manager’s perception of OP’s attendance.

          I agree with others that this may be a “butts in seats” v. “non-butts in seats” problem.

          1. Seriously?

            I don’t see it as defensive either. I do think that it would be a good idea for the OP to talk to the people she is working with to get an idea of the actual impact when she is out to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible, but it sounds like she probably already did that.

          2. serenity

            I agree with others that this may be a “butts in seats” v. “non-butts in seats” problem.

            Exactly. And we’ve had these letters before where that’s what it came down to, especially for those in admin assistant roles as OP here is.

      4. mark132

        Given that, I don’t understand why your manager wouldn’t be willing to work with you. Is there anything you can do to improve your attendance between now and the time off? I realize with health issues you don’t have full control, but something to make it easier on your manager?

        Also I think the additional responsibilities you accepted could be working against you right now. It could be a coverage issue your manager is concerned with as well.

        1. Lil Fidget

          It’s also only a week, which helps. If OP has been flagged for absences and wanted ten days or a month, I’d say the outlook was worse.

      5. MechanicalPencil

        To be fair, you’ve also said you’re an admin assistant, which generally means you’re covering phones and walk-ins. So this is generally a butts in seat type of position. If you’re not there, someone has to cover you until you do arrive at some unknown time. There are always those other projects that can be done at other times/other places, but the bulk of the work tends to be manning a physical location.

        1. Let's Talk About Splett

          Even admins who don’t work reception are expected to be available at certain times because for things that can’t wait – like the copier breaking down or a last-minute lunch needs to be ordered for 19 people.

          1. BadWolf

            Or suddenly everyone is calling all at once. Or multiple clients show up and there’s a schedule confusion. Extra trips to the get things in the mail.

            1. LW/OP

              To be fair, none of these specific issues are the jobs of my group of admins. We don’t get many calls and hardly anyone just shows up at our location so there’s no walk ins. We don’t deal with the copiers or mail(we have a print shop and mailroom, yay!) and we don’t order lunch for people.

              My boss is newer to this job and I think doesn’t fully understand that the admin staff don’t do a lot of things that traditionally are the role of admins, since we have so many other support staff as well. A lot of traditional butts-in-seats work is done by other support staff OR just not relevant at our place of work.

  9. Pollygrammer

    It might be a good idea to come up with a list of possible compromises. Can you work 6 hours a day 7 days a week for a couple weeks? Stay as late as you can on days you have the energy? Put telework hours in during the evening? You want your boss to see you trying as hard as possible to find solutions, not just telling her that you’re doing the best you can to handle the illness itself.

    1. Lizzy

      I agree – I think you’d have a better chance at getting what you want (need?) if you present options. I recently came back from a short medical leave (I was out about 3 weeks), and I still had some follow-up appointments and things that required me to take more time off. My particular position means I can pretty easily work from home – I realize as an admin assistant that may not work for you, but offering to stay longer on days you feel up to it, or working through lunch, or whatever, might help your boss feel like you’re dedicated to work (still).
      It might also help if you talk to your “supervisors” (the 5 ladies you mentioned above you cover for) and get their resounding ok. That way, you can go to your actual boss and say “I’d really like to take this vacation and here’s my plan for trying to be here as much as possible, and btw my work isn’t being impacted and I’m still ensuring everything is/will get done by me doing X, Y, and Z.”

      and good luck – sounds like a crappy situation medically and I hope you’re able to get it resolved soon!

      1. Lil Fidget

        I agree, I think this is the best approach considering that 1) OP really wants to take this trip, enough to almost consider quitting over it, and 2) wiser minds than mine (Alison and the commenters) are warning that this may be kind of a big ask. I think it would be good for OP to go in to the discussion with her boss with the attitude of collaboration and seeing if there’s a way to get both sides’ needs met.

    2. LW/OP

      We don’t typically allow work from home or staying late BUT I will be sure to ask just in case there’s an exception I’m not aware of.

  10. LSP

    OP, you have my sympathies. As someone who has struggled with numerous health issues (including insomnia) that have impacted my time at work, it is incredibly frustrating when you spend all your vacation time being sick, and get stuck not actually getting the recuperative time off that is supposed to be a benefit everyone gets. I don’t know if your insomnia is caused in anyway by stress, but if it is, not being able to take time off for an actual, relaxing vacation is only going to compound the problem. Your boss may or may not be sympathetic to that, but I wish you luck!

    1. LW/OP

      It’s definitely affected by stress; I’ve taken on a lot of additional work since last August and have had both the flu and a respiratory infection this winter thanks to stress and the extra potent bugs running around. Plus it’s a catch 22: worry about flare-ups, get stressed, get a flare-up, worry about flare-ups. I’ll definitely try to work that into our discussion.

      1. Lil Fidget

        Hmm, I wonder if this is a good angle to take or not. I think it’s a Know-Your-Boss situation. I’ve had several bosses who think “stress” is kind of a made-up excuse for not working harder, and others who consider mental health to be a legitimate part of overall health. The only reason I hesitate here is because it sounds like your boss is being a little fussy around your need for FMLA and might value “butts in seats” based on your other comments, which might not go along with the kind of work-life balance boss who respects stress as legitimate.

        If not, go with the medical documentation/ FMLA route and just ask for the vacation you’d like separate from that, I think.

      2. Susan Sto Helit

        I’ve definitely found that in times of high pressure at work it can be more stressful not being in the office than it is being in the office.

        It’s a shame you’re not able to just remote in to the office from home, and benefit from that flexibility. Being able to just log on and work when you’re wide awake in the middle of the night, then sleep when your brain is ready, feels like it would be so much easier than trying to keep to a schedule your body is determined not to meet.

      3. Specialk9

        Just an aside, something that significantly helped me was to see an Integrative Medicine doctor (they actually check for vitamin imbalances and other medical underlying issues that other MDs find too out-there for some reason), and specifically to consider taking bovine colostrum (an immune system aid).

        I’m still sick, because I have a whole handful of health issues, but the improvement in my day-to-day is significant! Sleep doctors I saw had very narrow focuses, as did PCP doctors.

  11. soupmonger

    I think you’re been either really brave or really rash in booking a trip without arranging the time off first. Good luck with this – your personal/medical circumstances are not enviable, but I’m looking at this from an employers angle (I run my own business), and I’d take a pretty dim view of your situation. Talk to your employer as soon as you can. And yes, lean on the honeymoon angle. Good luck.

    1. LW/OP

      I booked at the time of the shower because we had the money then and it was known I’d be taking the time. I mean, my boss was at the shower and a) contributed cash and b) said along the lines of “I hope we help make a magical trip”. So I don’t feel like it will blindside her completely. Of course, this is all before the health issues really seriously flared up.

      1. sunny-dee

        The concept of a trip may not be a shock, but the timing may well be. There’s a difference between hoping you can take your dream trip, and then having that dream trip booked from Aug 1 – 8 or whatever. Once things get concrete, that changes the perception because you can see the risks / downsides associated with them. (She also said that before you essentially dropped to part-time work, which could well color her opinion.)

      2. Oryx

        I want to push back on this because you keep repeating it as if it somehow absolves you of needing to follow up directly with your manager.

        So, I’m getting married. It’s all I can think about — all the details, the decisions, etc. I’m excited & looking forward to it. Kind of like your trip.

        My manager knows, my team knows. They congratulated me when I got engaged. But because it doesn’t consume their thoughts the way it does mine, I can’t expect them to remember the dates and details. They have their own lives & priorities. Their own details & decisions that are more important to them than my wedding.

        Even if they were to throw me a shower, I still have to say “I am requesting these days off for my wedding.” I can’t fall back on “You bought me a toaster! You knew I needed time off” because that’s kind of how it’s coming across.

        1. serenity

          I still have to say “I am requesting these days off for my wedding.” I can’t fall back on “You bought me a toaster! You knew I needed time off” because that’s kind of how it’s coming across.

          Agree enthusiastically. OP, you need to have a conversation with your boss yesterday.

          1. fposte

            Another agreement here.

            I’ll ask as a genuine question, OP, out of curiosity and not reproach–this vacation was important enough to you that you left your previous job over it. Was there some reason, maybe nervousness about raising this alongside FMLA or just straight out inexperience with office leave practices, why it didn’t rise to the level of getting your manager’s permission at this one? You’ve thought about so many angles here that it’s an omission that stands out to me, and I’m wondering whether there’s a narrative surrounding that call that’s relevant.

            1. LW/OP

              This vacation was one of the reasons I left my last job. The main reason was because they went back on their word about offering a flexible schedule for my classes.

              I guess it’s just a matter of having a lot else on my mind and not thinking too much about the seriousness of it? Probably also a matter of what someone upthread mentioned, that it’s consumed my thoughts in a way that I probably just assumed everyone else was aware of? It just isn’t done here to ask for time off more than a couple months in advance, so it culturally wasn’t on my radar, and then I’ve been taking a full load of classes on top of work and health so…well, it hasn’t been my priority. And I suspect a decent part of it was me hoping I could pull myself together and willpower myself into being better before now so it would be an easier ask.
              I hope this is kind of what you’re trying to understand? It’s not that I was never planning on asking for permission, it was more of a recent “Oh $&%* I don’t have any time off left after all this and I never officially asked for this what am I gonna do!?” thing.

              1. fposte

                Yeah, it is, thanks. To me the permission got strangely disconnected from the trip itself–you’re describing and behaving as if the first was low priority, but the trip itself was clearly not a low priority–and I can see how your hope of asking from a stronger position could have been a factor in that separation.

              2. President Porpoise

                Hm, I think that if you don’t have any more time off on the books, you can’t reasonably expect the employer to be ok with giving you additional time, paid or unpaid. Especially if you’re now withdrawing heavily from your goodwill bank by taking unplanned mornings off (even a few hours a week) that your boss is clearly growing more irritable about.

                Your FMLA is not yet approved. That needs to be your priority right now. Go see the specialist 3hrs away, and take a day to do that so you can get this FMLA thing resolved. That will give you a measure of cover.

                Meanwhile, I think you need to rearrange your trip for next year. Talk with your husband candidly about it, and take a three day weekend trip over Labor Day to give yourself a bit of a break without impacting your work schedule. Maybe you can do as one commenter suggested and change the booking with the venue to be August 2019 instead.

                Once done, sit down with your boss and say, “I know that you’ve been concerned with my attendance. I’m working really hard to get a handle on it. I’m seeing a specialist on [Date], and I’m making major efforts to get everything done while I am in the office so that the organization doesn’t feel the impact of my medical issue as strongly. I’m also postponing my honeymoon trip that you all helped me pay for until next year, so that I will be able to accumulate more leave. By then, I hope my medical issues will have stabilized.”

                At this point, LW/OP, I think you may be trying your boss’s patience enough that your job may be at risk if you don’t double down on your sincerity and show that you are doing ALL in your power to lessen the impact of your medical concerns. Even then, FMLA may be required to help you hold on to it.

              3. Detective Amy Santiago

                I also want to point out here that the optics of you balancing a full course load plus a full time job on top of having health issues could make it look like school is a higher priority to you than work. And maybe that’s the case, and that’s okay, but it’s not going to be okay with your manager, so that’s something to keep in mind.

                1. LW/OP

                  It’s amusing that you bring this up; my manager is already trying to convince me to take summer classes that I don’t want because she thinks she needs to personally ensure that I finish my education as soon as possible. She’s even told me flat-out “this is just a job, your education will last you forever, that should be your priority”. So I don’t think that’s a concern at least for her.

        2. Delphine

          I don’t think that’s why the LW is repeating it. I think she’s repeating it because there’s an implication that she was trying to manipulate the situation (and blindside her boss) by booking her trip before booking time off because she knew that she would be out frequently due to her illness and might not be able to get approved for the time.

          1. LW/OP

            Yeah, I know you just have to take my word for it, but I promise that was not my intent. I was really happy with the surprise shower, I was eagerly sharing my plans with everyone, and when to my surprise we found we had enough money to book the room, I jumped on the opportunity to get it done early. Not once did it enter my mind that I needed to officially submit leave and get it approved before I booked, because it felt to me like it was such a well-known fact. I realize now of course that like they said, the fact that I’ve been dwelling on it for years kind of keeps me from realizing how it isn’t nearly that important to anyone else.

          2. STG

            That’s the optics of the situation though when you book a vacation prior to booking the actual time off. It’s important that the OP sees and understands that perspective.

  12. Pretend Scientist

    I think that it might be too big of an ask. If you’ve been taking time off unexpectedly since December and anticipate needing to do so for the foreseeable future, depending on the specialist treatment, asking for a full week off in August doesn’t seem reasonable. It’s already mid-May.

    I’m sympathetic to wanting to take a long-anticipated vacation and honeymoon, but if you have already used up all of your leave in less than half the year, to the point of needing FMLA for further absences, it might be in the best interest of preserving your integrity at work to not be asking for yet another set of days, especially when you don’t know how many days you’ll need in the interim.

    1. mediumofballpoint

      Seconded. This is not a request I’d ever make and as a coworker, I’d definitely start scorekeeping even though I know it’s not a helpful behavior. But we’re talking about a lot of absences here.

  13. Seriously?

    If your boss values face time over actual work, it may be helpful to start coming in on time sometimes after a bad night and do the barely functional face time if that is a viable option for you. If all she is looking at is the spread sheet of days you were in late, it might help. Also, it would only be for three months if the vacation is in August.

    1. LW/OP

      Yep, I’ve made a point of doing this as much as I’m physically able. Thankfully with the school semester over I think I’ll be able to do it more often.

    2. AMPG

      I was going to suggest this, as well. I realize that it’s more logical to just take the extra couple of hours and come in when you can function properly, but it sounds like it means more to your boss to have you there, so maybe try alternating time off days with zombie days and see if that helps.

    3. Argh!

      I have been on FMLA due to a condition that kept me awake at night. I decided one day to power through the morning and show up on time, then I realized I really couldn’t work. I went home early, forgetting about an obligation I had later in the day, and wound up being reprimanded by my boss. She demanded that in the future if I left early I should make arrangements for someone to take my place. I reminded her that the reason I left was brain fog that kept me from being able to do my job, including the part of my job that would be arranging for a sub!

      She’s not a very nice or understanding person, so I just decided to keep calling in for time off in the morning when I had a rough night. Fortunately, my issues were related and solving one of them has solved a whole daisy chain of problems. But…. my boss does not forget, nor does she forgive.

      So… I don’t recommend coming in to work if you really feel you can’t. One trick I used is doing all my morning routine, including coffee and shower, before calling in. If I’m really messed up, those things won’t fix it. If I’m not, then I just go to work. This helped me not go to work when I wasn’t truly fit for it.

  14. Queen of Cans & Jars

    I just want to offer my sympathies as a fellow chronic insomniac! I once had a stretch where I went THREE MONTHS getting about 2-3 hours a night. I was working at home, so people just assumed I could sleep whenever I wanted so it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Even if I was able to sleep in & get another 2 or so hours, trying to manage on 5 hours a night for 3 months made me an absolute basket case! Thankfully, I finally found some things that work for me, so I’m much better now, but that honestly was one of the worst times of my life.

    1. Queen of Cans & Jars

      “Powering through” might work for the occasional bad night, but at a certain point, it’s just not possible.

    2. LW/OP

      Goodness, that sounds absolutely horrific! I’ve never gone more than a month and a half with less than 4h a night, but I did have two weeks where I never actually slept, only dozed in and out for a couple of hours every day. And then just recently I had a week where there were two instances of not sleeping for 40+ hours, which…sucked. When I was a teenager I’d often go several days without sleeping, but when you’re younger your body is more capable of that kinda thing.

      If you don’t mind me asking, what helped you? I’ve tried so many things I’m always eager to hear if something is new to me.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I had terrible insomnia for about six weeks a couple of years ago, and the only thing that helped me was actual sleeping pills. Just over the counter ones — Unisom, I think. I’m sure you’ve tried stuff like that though. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this — it is really horrible.

        1. LW/OP

          I confess, I haven’t tried over the counter in years, not since I was a teen and my desperate mom was trying to do anything to get me to sleep. It’s not like it would hurt me to try them again, as long as I can make sure they won’t interfere with my actual prescription medication.

          1. Seriously?

            Just don’t add in over the counter stuff without talking to your doctor first. It isn’t always clear what will interact with each other.

          2. BadWolf

            Not a doctor and at the risk of suggesting the obvious, but something like Benedryl (allergies) or Dramamine (motion sickness) make some people pretty sleepy (as long you don’t get the Non-Drowsy formulation!).

            1. BadWolf

              ETA: this was specifically mentioned as a “no” later down. So probably strike this as any sort of multi day plan.

          3. Specialk9

            If you’ve tried prescription (and you said elsewhere all the meds you tried), I suspect OTC won’t work as well. I’m bummed trazadone doesn’t work for you anymore – that and Benadryl together, with a boring audiobook from the library (Overdrive) helped me on especially rough nights. I’m sorry that you’ve tried so much without avail.

        2. STG

          I used sleeping pills when my body wouldn’t adjust to a night shift in the past. Personally, it worked for me but I’d probably try sleeping a few hours earlier than you think is necessary if using them. They helped me sleep like a log….for 10 hours.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yes! For me they didn’t kick in for about two hours, which messed up my original calculations of when to take them. Definitely try them on a weekend first.

      2. animaniactoo

        I have never insomnia as bad you are describing, but I have very much had regular “I can’t turn my brain off” and “It’s 3 in the morning, why I am staring at the ceiling?” So, this is an outside possibility, but just in case… I started writing a book in my head. I’m currently up to 3 books and I switch off between them, revisiting scenes, going over dialog again, etc. For some reason, it switches off my brain in a way that reading does not. I’ve trained myself so well that there hasn’t been much progress lately because I’m usually asleep in 5 minutes and under.

        1. LW/OP

          Okay, I have NEVER heard that one before! I have too many memory problems(likely from the whole not sleeping thing) that already plague me; I have to write everything down and get exceedingly frustrated if I can’t, so I doubt that would work for me but it’s novel(ha ha) enough I might have to give it a go.

          1. Jules the 3rd

            For the longest time, my method of going to sleep was to tell myself a story – not a whole novel, but maybe a 30 minute dramedy, where I was Eowyn going to slay a dragon or Leia hunting for Jedi history. Far enough from reality to not trigger my anxiety, but dramatic enough to keep my interest, and familiar enough I didn’t need to write it down to keep track of it. Kinda waking dreaming.

            At one point, I got hypnotized and realized that the bedtime story was pretty similar.

              1. Rat in the Sugar

                Not Jules the 3rd, but personally I’ve used hypnosis for insomnia and unfortunately found that it wasn’t the best for me. I adore being hypnotized, but I would be focusing way too much on the tape that was supposed to be relaxing me and would always end up staying awake through the end instead of drifting off midway like you’re supposed to. Also, as much as I love ASMR I would often have the same problem with those–I would be too focused on the video to drift off.

                I had much better luck drowning out my chattering brain by putting on random youTube videos that had steady volume and just faded soothingly into the background. I highly recommend the AntsCanada channel and the Game Grump Space Quest I, II, and III series for anyone looking for videos of this type; they are quite long (so you avoid loud intros and ads) and have very stable volume levels.

            1. BuffaLove

              I used to do this as a kid! The more detailed the story, the better. I try not to do it as an adult because it tends to morph into maladaptive daydreaming. :\

            2. Hope

              I do a version of this! My story is basically “okay, so this family won a lottery of X dollars, how are they going to spend it?”

              I change the composition and circumstances of the family, and also the amount of $ they win, but since I tend to tell it to myself in a familiar order each time (“okay, so they’re going to use X dollars to buy a house. They’ll spend X dollars on furniture for the house. They’ll set aside X dollars to donate to charities. X dollars of that will go to charity Y, and X dollars to charity Z…”) it somehow turns off my brain.

              Sidenote: if anyone wins the lottery, I am happy to help you figure out how to spend your $$.

        2. BadWolf

          Sometimes when my brain is racing around, I start cataloging all of my craft projects and their current state. I like to have a lot of projects going so I’m not stressed about them being unfinished. I effectively bore myself to sleep.

        3. President Porpoise

          Wow, I do this too! Helped enormously with the insomnia I started to have while in college.

      3. writtenPyramids

        For me, what helped was anxiety medication (which I took before bed really short term since I was getting anxious about falling asleep, which obviously made it worse. Combined with a meditation app +calming music plus really strict bestime rituals. It SUCKED.

      4. Neuropsychiatrist who treats sleep problems

        The most effective long-term option for chronic insomnia is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). It is more effective than sleeping pills–your experience going through multiple sleeping pills and nothing working long is very common, unfortunately. CBT-I isn’t a quick fix, but it’s much more likely to work for you in the long run. I highly recommend it if you haven’t tried it already–it is as in-depth as any form of CBT, and goes well beyond the standard sleep-hygiene “don’t nap, get out of bed if you can’t fall asleep” recommendations. Treatment may last between 6-20 one hour sessions, if you’re doing it in person, depending on the specific nature of your problems and your response to treatment. If you look this up online, there are a lot of reputable sites like the National Sleep Foundation that have information on this. It may be most effective as an in-person therapy, but there are books and apps you can try in the meantime if you are interested.

        If you haven’t had a sleep study (polysomnogram) to rule out conditions like sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome/periodic limb movements of sleep, that may be helpful, because those conditions have specific other treatments (CPAP, dopaminergic drugs).

        And, I strongly advise AGAINST taking any over-the-counter sleeping pills (Exception: melatonin, which works by a different mechanism)! Most OTC sleeping pills (Unisom, Benadryl, anything “PM”) work by damaging the thinking and memory chemical in your brain (acetylcholine) and can make your cognition worse in the short term (not good for your work situation) AND increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life! (Google “anticholinergic drugs” and “dementia” for more information).

        In real life I am a neurologist and psychiatrist and treat many people with chronic sleep problems–but since I’m just an internet stranger to you, I recommend you do your own reading up on CBT-I to verify what I said :). Best of luck to you!

        1. Jules the 3rd

          The People’s Pharmacy did an episode on anticholinergic drugs last year, if you do better with audio than reading.

        2. LW/OP

          Oh my goodness, this is great information, I appreciate it!! I have had two sleep studies with no significant findings. How would you suggest I go about finding someone who practices CBT-I?

          1. Relentlessly Socratic (also a neuroscientist)

            Hello LW! I have chronic insomnia, and it S U C K S.

            CBT-I is also available online–I did the SHUTi course (which is not free), and a quick Google search found others.

            The beauty of using an online program is you can start it NOW–SHUTi doesn’t require you to alter your meds or anything, so it functions as an add-on therapy.

            If you are up for looking at research papers you can go to PubMed at the National Libraries of Medicine and search for “online insomnia treatment” or “internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia”

            1. Bethany D.

              I used SHUTi too! On average it helped me go from a stressful 4-5 hours of broken sleep to a calm 5-6 hours of mostly solid sleep. It was HARD to slog through those first few weeks but oh what a difference it has made! There are no CBT sleep therapists in my area so I had to go through it on my own, but I found a lot of good information and encouragement from Thesavvyinsomniac .

          2. Neuropsychiatrist who treats sleep problems

            Do you have health insurance? If so, I would start by finding therapists in your area who take your insurance. Then call them and ask if they provide CBT for insomnia, or at least CBT in general. CBT tends to be very structured, so if someone has training and experience providing CBT in general, they should be able to use a CBT-I treatment manual to provide CBT for this specific reason.

            If your employer has a EAP, they might also be able to point you in the right direction–an EAP would usually not cover a full course of CBT (I think a lot of them are geared to 1-3 visits with someone providing general psychosocial support, which won’t treat your insomnia) but they may have information on CBT therapists in your area.

            This site (UPenn is kind of the home of CBT in general) has a directory of CBT-I therapists worldwide, though of course someone could be very good CBT-I therapist and not have had themselves listed in this directory:
            https://www.pennsleep.directory/index.php/search-for-a-provider

            If there aren’t a lot of CBT therapists in your area, you could look for a therapist who will do it over live videolink, though that’s harder to get insurance to pay for. (And generally they have to be licensed in the state where you live–so this may work better if you live in upstate NY and see someone over videolink in NYC, than if you live in Montana and have to find an out-of-state therapist with a MT license).

            The most important thing is to find someone and give it a try! If you start seeing someone and you’re not sure if they’re the right therapist for you, I would give it at least a few sessions to see if you feel you are building a good rapport with them; if after that point, you’re not sure, you can always try someone else. Even for CBT, having a good therapeutic relationship (i.e., feeling the therapist is someone you can talk to who is trustworthy and helpful) is one of the most important factors for treatment success.

            I think in-person treatment might be your best bet (sometimes it’s easier to fine-tune treatment for your particular needs when you’re working face-to-face) but online treatment could be a very good option too, especially if you are rural and there aren’t CBT therapists in your area. Unfortunately, I don’t have a specific online treatment program (or app or book) to recommend for CBT-I, but there is evidence that these treatment modalities can be quite helpful too.

            Hope this is helpful! Good luck to you!!!

            1. Neuropsychiatrist who treats sleep problems

              Oh, I think I saw elsewhere in the thread you have a psychiatrist–I would also ask them if they know any good CBT therapists in your area. They probably have people they refer to and think are good.

      5. Insomnia cure

        I’ve struggled with insomnia in times of stress and for me it’s related to my diet especially when I’m eating treats to make myself feel better. I discovered that when I eat gluten or dairy, I’m awake all night just like you describe. And then I’d be so tired the next day that I end up eating more carbs for the energy and comfort. Maybe try a Whole 30 reset and see if it helps.

      6. AudreyParker

        I’ve had massive issues with sleep throughout my life so can completely empathize with your situation – if I’m still awake at 5am despite my best efforts and have to be at work at 9am, I don’t feel like it’s even safe for me to *drive* to work at that point let alone attempt work. Incredibly frustrating when you have such limited control over something and feel awful much of the time and know people are looking at you like you’re a slacker :( As someone else in the thread said, these days CBTi is what’s usually suggested, and what my last sleep specialist suggested for me along with the usual sleep hygiene and some extended-release melatonin for a bit. One of the sleep specialists I follow on social media just put out a book on using CBTi, and there are also a couple of online programs available if you don’t have access to a specialist in person and can afford them. I have yet to find any medication that doesn’t make me groggy the next morning other than really low (1/2 children’s) dose Benedryl. I’ve really spent a huge chunk of my life trying to get a handle on sleep/fatigue issues, and would love to have a time out from having to worry about their impact on work, so don’t begrudge you wanting to find a way to make the vacation work!

      7. Queen of Cans & Jars

        Ambien, actually. My first doctor was super adverse to the idea of sleeping pills, so he put me on Ativan (?!?!?) which I legit had withdrawals from once he decided he couldn’t prescribe me that any more. So I switched to another doc who let me try Ambien. Nothing else I tried worked. I’ve heard horror stories about it, but I strictly follow the instructions (actually only need half a dose), and I’ve never had an issue. If I have a sleepless night, I will take one the following night, so I never get caught in a cycle. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to me: it just snowballed after a few bad nights until it got to the point where I was so stressed out at the prospect of not sleeping the next night that it just got worse & worse.

        1. Observer

          Ativan can work, depending on the cause of your insomnia. Sometimes insomnia is really about low level anxiety and the mechanisms of anxiety and insomnia can be the same.

        2. LW/OP

          Funny enough, Ambien did nothing for me. Absolutely nothing, not even a hint of drowsiness. I don’t know why and it puzzled my doctor too. Weird.

      8. thelettermegan

        I did acupuncture and occasionally, an over the counter painkiller/sleep aid. “May cause drowsiness” is plus for me.

    3. Det. Charles Boyle

      This is what new parents have to do all the time. We get five hours of sleep per night, max, for months and months (and that’s if we’re lucky!), and still have to go to work and function. You just get used to it and sleep as much as you can on the weekends.

      1. Thursday Next

        This is neither helpful nor comparable. Being awakened at regular intervals in order to feed (and sustain the life of) one’s child is not equivalent to not being able to fall or stay asleep.

        I say this as someone who’s struggled with insomnia, and has cared for my children as newborns. It’s different. Insomnia is a medical condition–one that needs treatment.

      2. Lizzy

        Um… no. I get why you say that, but it’s really not the same thing at all. I say this as a wife of someone who has dealt with extreme insomnia and as a new parent.

      3. Anon on this one

        Yeah, I’m going with a no there too.

        Honestly, being a working parent of a baby is in many ways like a chronic illness–tired so often, having to take sick time for the baby, calculating whether to take sick time for yourself when you catch what the baby had…

        I never “got used” to that, and it practically broke me the second time around.

      4. Observer

        Not the same at all. I’ve dealt with the newborn stuff (more than once…) and deal with insomnia – although NOWHERE near the level of the OP. Just NOT the same thing.

        And, tbh, one of the reasons that single parents tend to have harder time than couples is that you get to trade off night duties. Also, lots of people actually DO get help so they can get some “extra” sleep. That’s not about people who are “lazy”, “entitled”, “spoiled”, etc. It’s about recognizing when you are getting so little sleep that you can’t function.

    4. Thursday Next

      I also spent a summer during which I slept two hours daily, then went to work. I was a complete wreck when I started grad school that fall.

      Insomnia is a terrible condition to grapple with. There have been a few commenters here asking the LW why insomnia necessitates leave from work but won’t interfere with vacation (this sounds a bit to me like “if you’re too sick to go to school, you’re too sick to go out and have fun”), but for insomniacs like me, being relieved of the pressure to wake up at a specific time can be really restorative. It’s easier for me to fall asleep when I don’t have to set my alarm for 6 am.

  15. LW/OP

    Also just want to mention; all that’s booked is the room. No plane tickets, no experiences, nothing else, since we plan to drive. So our loss isn’t as significant as, say, a trip to Hawaii if we have to cancel outright.

    I’m just a nervous wreck thanks to the end of a very intense school year plus all this health stuff. I apologize if I come off defensive in my comments; I do tend to over-elucidate when I’m nervous which I think can be defensive sounding.

    1. Seriously?

      Tone is hard to convey in text. The extra context is helpful. Personally, I haven’t found your comments to be defensive.

      1. fposte

        Yeah, I think you just sound like you’re explaining, OP.

        I also think that justification can be a bit of a balancing act, and I suspect you might lean toward overdoing it :-). Alison has already said not to bring up the previous job thing, and absolutely don’t bring it up, but I’d also be thoughtful about my own motivations for wanting to bring it up in the first place. If you’re falling into the exhausted/unwell impulse to laundry list anything relevant to the trip’s importance, remember that simple clarity is likely to serve you better.

        1. LW/OP

          Yep, and I definitely am more than a little bit emotionally invested in this so combined with the health stuff I’m getting more worked up that I’d like. But that’s why I want to make a list or a guide for myself and stick to it when I have the actual conversation. Having so many viewpoints here and talking it out with so many people is really helping me get a grip on what I really do need to bring up and what seems reasonable to me but is outrageous to others is a nice external perspective on things.

    2. Bea

      I find your comments nothing more than self defense and details some may miss skimming the letter or comments.

      You can get a hotel deposit back usually if within 1-2 weeks. That’s not anything extreme and certainly a detail that changes a lot of kneejerk reactions you’re getting here.

      Please talk to her sooner rather than later to show her respect and willingness to make things work in both favors. I hope she can allow leeway and offer working late days a few days to take pressure off the crew who otherwise picks up slack.

      Do you think school has a part in your flare ups? Once you’re done, maybe your body won’t be so cruel :( My family has insomnia issues but nothing this bad, usually sleepaids are enough to power through. I’m shaking my Benny haze off right now so maybe that’s why I’m rooting so hard for you.

      1. LW/OP

        I really think, now, looking back on it with clearer eyes, school had a lot to do with it. I was working full time, taking 12-13 credit hours, and trying to juggle a new marriage, a roomate, two cats, and declining health when I really shouldn’t have been. I’m really, really hoping that things will get better now that I’m free from school.

        1. Sarah

          That is a lot!! I was wondering about the school piece given your comments. I don’t know what your program is, but is there any way to take fall semester off to really get a handle on health issues? Even programs that otherwise wouldn’t allow a break will often permit it for medical reasons. Even a reduced class schedule might help. If this is a possibility, it might be worth bringing it up with your boss in the context of saying “Part of what I’m doing to get things under control going forward will be taking fall semester off of classes so that I can focus on work and my health more exclusively.” I feel like trying to be essentially a full-time student AND a full-time worker is a huge challenge even for people in perfect health, and it honestly may simply be too much while you’re dealing with a health issue that is not well controlled.

          1. Observer

            That’s a really good point. It’s really pretty unusual not to be able to go part time as a student, especially once you’re in a Master’s level program. They know that most people have jobs, even if they don’t also have anything else going on in their lives.

            In fact, I think my daughter’s Masters program actively discourages the students from taking too many credits a semester. They somewhat make it up by offering a summer semester, if I’m not mistaken.

          2. LW/OP

            I’m actually already planning on taking off the fall! I only have one class left and it’s on the schedule for next spring so that I can spend this fall applying to university programs for my next degree. So I really do honestly feel like I’m on the road to doing better. I just wish I had a clearer mind to make better decisions all the time, and not just occasionally.

      2. SoSo

        I will also chime in with a personal story about the hotel deposit… While on my own honeymoon two years ago, we spent several nights in one city and several nights in another. After we arrived in the second city and spent one night there, we realized that it just wasn’t that great. Not as much to do as we anticipated, the beach sucked, and the weather wasn’t that good- we really wished we could go back to the first city instead of spending another 3 nights there. Even though we pre-booked with an advanced purchase rate, I called the hotel front desk directly from our room and gave them the whole story: we were on our honeymoon and it just hadn’t turned out the way we wanted, so we were looking to check out early. The rate was supposed to be non-refundable, but after the manager heard that we were on our honeymoon, he gladly refunded us the remaining nights and we were able to go back to the previous city/hotel.

        Long story short- if the worst case scenario happens and you do have to push out your trip to another date, you could potentially still get a full refund/keep your package deal if you explain it all to the hotel and get an understanding manager. Good luck with whatever happens, and I hope you have a great trip!

        1. Bea

          Seriously if you’re nice and ask for a refund most places will try to work with you even if the usual policy is to say no. The key is approaching it as a long shot request and most service folks just want a happy person who won’t then cause a scene or leave rude reviews!

          1. SoSo

            Oh yeah, totally. I admitted to the manager that I understood if he couldn’t refund our money and that the desire to leave was entirely our choice. He was so kind about it that I could have cried! I left a great review for the hotel after that because it really did make our trip so much better.

    3. McWhadden

      I don’t think you sound defensive. And I think it’s GREAT you asked AAM first. So many issues here would have been better if they asked first rather than after. And I think you have a good script here.

      All that being said, your boss hasn’t actually tried to prevent this yet. I wouldn’t get too defensive with her when you bring it up since she hasn’t actually said no. I would acknowledge the issue but explain it’s your honeymoon.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Yes, AAM exists in part to ask here, first, so Alison will explain how to regruntle everyone.

        1. Thursday Next

          “regruntle” is awesome! I don’t know why I’ve never thought of the fact that no one is ever gruntled…

    4. Falling Diphthong

      It’s very unusual for hotel bookings not to be completely, or almost completely, refundable 3 months out. Usually for popular destinations the penalties kick in a few weeks out.

      And–it’s worth framing it to the hotel as canceling because you unexpectedly have to deal with a medical crisis. Places often have some flexibility in how they actually deal with cancellations, to build good-will with potential repeat customers dealing with unforeseen unfun circumstances. Even if the lettering of the contract is strict, to allow them to invoke the nuclear option on people trying to abuse the contract. (Like people who return as “defective” their two year old heavily-worn shoes, because there’s a no questions asked, anytime returns policy .) I had to cancel my son’s trampoline-place birthday party when he blew his knee out less than 24 hours before the party; despite the no refund contract they happily refunded the money, and we booked the makeup party there a couple of months later.

      1. EMW

        This and also, if you mention you want to move the date to sometime in the future instead of cancelling outright, they may be able to work with you on a solution. I think this would give the OP a lot of confidence going into the meeting with the boss knowing that if it doesn’t happen this year, we have a path forward for delaying it.

    5. Friday

      Good luck OP and if you have to move your trip (hopefully the hotel can reschedule the room this far out for you without a penalty), I do hope that you get a weekend or two away this summer as relaxation is definitely important!

    6. Specialk9

      I didn’t get defensiveness at all! I read it that you were answering questions people had, and owning up to your stuff. I hope this conversation works out well for you!

    7. Loopy

      I don’t find you too defensive, either, and you seem open to making whatever the best decision ends up being regarding Trip vs. Job.

      Also–I’ve been sleep deprived. It is HARD to regulate your emotions and think logically and clearly when you’re under resourced. Chronic insomnia is probably making this whole situation tough to deal with in a number of ways.

  16. Cucumberzucchini

    If you’ve already paid for the vacation that you’ve struggled to save for I would try to go on the vacation unless you can get a full refund. Lots of advise on handing that above.

    I struggle with insomnia, I’ve never been a good sleeper, my entire life it’s been hard to get through a whole night’s sleep. Being married makes it worse because having another person in the bed makes it even harder and my husband gets his feelings hurt that I’d rather sleep alone so I can actually, you know, sleep!

    I’m not sure what’s the main issue with your insomnia, so this may not be helpful… But just some things that have helped me deal with my own. Being very aware that I have to wake up at X time and have a full days worth of work to tackle and it’s now 3am so I’m only going to get a few hours of sleep and will be tired causes me major anxiety and puts too pressure on me to fall asleep, which just makes it even harder to sleep. Something that’s help that doesn’t address my actual sleeping problem but helps me manage it is to tell myself that it’s okay to not sleep and that this is just how my life is. By mentally accepting the situation, it actually helps me calm down and ultimately have a better chance at falling asleep. I don’t fully know why it helps, but this (recent) mantra has helped a lot. I just say to myself, if I’m waking up frequently it’s okay. Because the getting upset was just making it so much worse. I also sleep with ear plugs religiously every night. It was difficult at first to get used to them, but now I correlate them with sleeping so not only does it help block out noises (every little noise wakes me up) but it also helps signal my brain “sleep time”.

    From a work perspective, if you’re going to be up anyway, is there any way you can shift you hours some? Can you tackle some of your work while you’re awake at night to offset the time you’re having to take off in the morning? That doesn’t work for me, because work gets me too hyper to sleep, so if I’m working late it makes it harder to fall asleep because it’s all still running through my brain – I need more time separation between work and sleep. But if that’s not a problem for you maybe that could help with the time investment issue with work.

  17. Iris Eyes

    It sounds like overall you have a healthy and not too stressful work environment so you have that going for you. I know there is at least anecdotal evidence that mild insomnia can be improved by some types of vacation at least in the short term. However it could make it even more difficult to handle time zone switches. Would it be worth looking into seeing if what you are planning has some evidence that it might also help the insomnia? Not at all suggesting that you spin it as a health/medical trip but if you can add that there might be long term benefits for them to this short term inconvenience might help give them another reason to justify to themselves saying yes.

    Sometimes people feel like they need to say no even if they want to say yes (and visa versa) and one more thing in the pro column might be enough.

  18. ellis55

    I won’t jump into the fray too much on the question of yes/no vacation, but I would do some soul-searching on the “several others who can cover when I miss” question. Just because other folks exist who *can* cover doesn’t mean your absences aren’t cutting into their time to do other work or impacting their own ability to be away from the office when they want to be. I want to be as charitable as possible because I’ve had family members’ medical issues make it so I couldn’t do hoped-for trips and it’s so, so unfair and heartbreaking but it also wasn’t just about me. There were folks on my team who really stretched their limits during that time to ensure I got what I needed, and it wasn’t really for me to judge how easy that *should* be for them or how big of a deal. They were doing my job, not theirs, for a period of time because I couldn’t.

    I can see how it would be a tough pill for them to swallow if I tacked on a fun extended vacation, even if they were happy for me, so close to that time period. I can also imagine they would feel somewhat slighted by my manager if she’d agreed to that.

    Do a little thinking around this issue. Sit with it. Realize that few folks want to be the person who vocally oppose a hoped-for honeymoon to the honeymooner and might not raise these objections with you directly but could bend your manager’s ear about them. Think about the position that puts her in vis-a-vis team morale.

    1. EditorInChief

      Great point. Just because “the ladies” as you refer to them have been covering for you doesn’t mean that they should automatically be expected to cover once again for a vacation. No co-worker wants to be “That Person” who complains about another co-worker’s absences, so it while it may seem that they’re all right with all of this, it gets very old having to cover for someone else on a near daily basis, then on top of it be expected to cover for an optional vacation.

      1. zora

        No, “the ladies” are the people she supports, and they love her work even with her schedule issues.

        The coworkers are the other admins. And I’m in a similar structure, where the admin team covers for each other, and I GENUINELY am happy to cover a specific person more in one year, because I know I might need that support another year, and they will give it to me.

        1. LW/OP

          I admit, I might not have be entirely correct but I feel like this is how our office works. All admins have families and most are older and like going on extended vacations(cruises or the like) and occasionally have family illnesses they have to address. We are all very supportive of each other and juggling the specialists when stuff like this comes up. Recently one of the admins had to be out because her husband had a heart attack, and we just had a quick meeting and temporarily reorganized her specialists to the rest of us to cover for her while she was out for the two weeks he needed care. We very much have each other’s backs.

          It has been good to read a lot of the warning comments to be careful about what other staff might be thinking but not saying, and I appreciate it, because it is giving me an opportunity to look at our staff’s interactions and see if they really are as supportive as I’ve been reading. I maintain that I think they are, but it’s a good check on my own interpretations.

    2. mediumofballpoint

      Excellent point. Goodwill is a currency in a lot of offices and this could put the OP at a deficit she might not be aware of.

    3. Nacho

      This. I have a coworker whose illness means he needs to take random days off on FMLA. Everybody’s understanding of the fact that he can’t help it, but that that doesn’t make us particularly happy to know that we’re taking on extra work because he’s frequently gone.

      I’m not sure how I’d feel if I heard him nonchalantly act like it’s no big deal that he misses 50% of his coverage related work because the rest of us will do it for him

      1. ellis55

        Yes! That was me for a bit when my dad was ill.

        I made liberal, liberal use of any employee recognition programs that were in place to ensure my coworkers’ extra work was rewarded, wrote a lot of thank-you cards, brought donuts. I mean, maybe it was overkill but I really wanted to be clear that I knew it was an imposition and appreciated it. Sometimes approach is everything, and part of sending the right message was not taking another vacation for a good long time so everyone could catch up on any backlog I’d created.

        Was it fair to me? Was I having fun taking care of my sick parent? Not really, but they still gave me a gift and I tried to be so careful to appreciate it for what it was. That’s hard to do when you’re burnt out from your time off rather than refreshed, but it’s important to not make those feelings about what you’re “owed” because you went through a hard time. I ended up getting a therapist to work through some of the stress and fatigue and keep perspective.

        Not to mention – be VERY careful how much you argue that your job can be effortlessly covered by others. It’s a quick way to argue yourself out of a job entirely in this economy …

  19. Is It Spring Yet?

    I feel for OP. Ill AND deeply wanting a true nice vacation.

    I also feel for the coworkers that are doing all that extra coverage. I wonder if thats why Boss is getting a bit irritated/agitated/miffed at missed time. Could it be that Boss isnt able to work with the others’ schedules so often that their feeling a lack of flexibility available for others? Especially given that isnomnia cant be planned, its alot of last minute asks on other employees time.

    Would it be possible to be very, and visibly, willing to take on coverage for others literally whenever youre in the office? Like send an email, Juan is out this morning, Im covering for him. And then be very concious to spread around that appreciation.

    Words of thanks, while necessary, arent always enough to mitigate the extra work/time/effort coworkers are picking up.

    My thinking is that by doing this when you are able to and being very obvious about it, you keep the goodwill as high as possible and grumblings to a minimum. I guess it creates more of a reciprocal community feeling.

  20. HRM

    OP, you mention that you’re an admin assistant. I think face time/”butts in seat” expectation is more important in that type of role because it’s seen as a support function. There are some fields or jobs where flexible hours, working from home, etc. are no big deal but generally, in my experience, being an admin assistant isn’t one of them because you’re expected to generally be around when most of the other staff is around, especially whoever you support. This is even more true if you have responsibilities to greet visitors, answer phones, make copies, set up or tear down for meetings, etc. If you get to work 3 hours later than normal and you have very little to catch up on, but you also weren’t available for some of those things you may not be as “in the clear” as you think. I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I’ve struggled with a chronic health issue last year, had to go on FMLA and then had to ultimately cancel a 3 week vacation to Japan I had scheduled 14 months prior because I couldn’t possibly justify additional time off of work. I was crushed but I tried to remain neutral about it with my employer because I knew face time was important to my boss.

  21. Formerly Arlington

    I honestly would not be able to enjoy a vacation with the concern lingering over my head that this could be impacting the way I was perceived at my job, even if I got the “OK” from a boss who already expressed concern about my attendance. I’m not saying it’s right or fair that someone with a lot of absences due to a chronic absence shouldn’t be able to take a long vacation, but there are other people who want to take long vacations and can’t or feel they shouldn’t, either. I would try to reschedule the vacation, personally, if this were me.

  22. Delphine

    I’m sorry you’re going through this, OP. It’s even more difficult because I think time off can make a world of difference for people with chronic illnesses. Even if you’re still dealing with your illness on vacation, the stress of having to worry about work and other responsibilities lifts for a while and can be a great relief.

  23. Beardown1

    Part of me has to think that your co-workers though supportive may become a little more frustrated every time they have to cover for you. Health issues is one thing, but covering for someone with a history of absences to go on vacation would most likely frustrate the team if they do not know all the details. It is also your bosses job as a manager to balance what is good for the company with what is supportive to the employee. I also think deep down part of you knows you didn’t handle this in the best way and should have brought it up before booking accommodations. I also don’t think it matters if you are going to a luxurious island somewhere or to a relatives lake house. Absent is absent. Have you honestly thought about looking for a new position with more flexible hours or the option to work from home?This may help with the insomnia and with flexibility for doctors appointments and other needs.

  24. Let's Talk About Splett

    I am an admin in a regulated industry which means nothing here except there are certain tasks that MUST be done by an admin at my office each day. I used to have a counterpart (who also worked reception in an office where clients visit every day) and she supported one unit and I supported the other. She worked 7AM – 3:30PM every day because she didn’t want to commute during rush hour, which left me to cover reception an hour and a half every day on top of all my other work.

    She would also request all the PTO she wanted to take, knowing that if she was out I had to come in and work on days like the day after Thanksgiving, July 5th when July 4th was on the Thursday, etc. She literally did this for every holiday, and when I called her out, she would shrug and say the director she reported to already approved it (I reported to a different director.)

    To top this off, she developed a medical issue that required almost weekly dr. visits where she always left for the day at 1 or 2:00. I finally asked her if it was at all possible to schedule her appts in the morning because I was covering for her so much I had to work late and she would not answer me.

    Tl/dr, it really, really would have helped my morale if she had at least asked her dr if she could get a morning appt at least sometimes.

    1. Lil Fidget

      My goodness, you should have certainly brought this up with your own supervisor! These are legitimate work issues for you.

      1. Let's Talk About Splett

        Oh, trust me, I did, and she was eventually laid off because of restructuring . . . and then her director hired her predecessor back to work-from-home full time, which is practically unheard of for being an admin in my company. I just wanted to give my perspective as an admin covering for another admin who is out a lot.

          1. Let's Talk About Splett

            The admin who had her position before her resigned to be a SAHM, then she was hired. She was laid off and her director hired the admin who had resigned to be a SAHM.

    2. Yorick

      Yeah, OP being an admin changes this a lot for me. When you’re out, even for a few hours, someone in the office is doing tasks that would otherwise go to you. So while medical absences are understandable and coworkers want to be supportive, it’s going to place a big burden on them to miss work all the time and then take a long vacation shortly after. It may also reflect poorly on you on a large scale, because your 5 people are now going to an admin who usually supports 5 different people, so the work requested by the latter 5 won’t be getting tended to as quickly.

  25. Just another voice in the echo chamber

    OP – I also struggle with insomnia and I’d love to hear more about the sleep specialist you are waiting to see – how did you find them? Do you have any suggestions for finding one in my area? Thank you!

    1. LW/OP

      I saw a really highly recommended psychiatrist in our area who had connections to the two sleep specialists I’ve seen(well, one I’ve seen and one I’m waiting to see). I’m afraid in my case it was just years of pushing and pushing on doors until one opened, and then repeating the process over and over again. I’m sorry!

      1. Just another voice in the echo chamber

        Thanks for answering, and I understand and feel exactly the same way! I know by now that insomnia is a problem that is really hard to treat, but I am constantly surprised and frustrated that there are so few avenues/options for treatment for us!!

        Good luck to you with both the insomnia struggles and the honeymoon, I really hope everything works out for you!

    2. AudreyParker

      Not the OP, but have seen multiple sleep specialists. It depends on your insurance, but I’ve gotten recommendations from my GP and ENT and also just gone online – usually they’re pulmonologists or neurologists who specialize in sleep. I’ve always had PPOs, so not sure how this works if you have an HMO, I just assume your GP can refer you? There are also associations and sleep clinics online that will mention specialists in different areas, and if you have a large university near you with a medical center, they most likely also have people they can refer you to. Good luck!

  26. Js

    LW, my sympathies as well. my partner has a chronc health issue that affects him like this (in that he may need a few addtional hours in the morning, or to leave early sometimes, with periods of doing well followed by clusters of flareups, and back again). and i definitely get the stress-anxiety-illness loop. but tbh, if you have already used up all your leave, then there’s a fair chance that they say no, even if you are willing to take it unpaid. it’s not a question of deserving vacation or not. if the company gives you X days, and you’ve used X days, then that could be it. they need you in the office. when i took maternity leave, i used up all my PTO to supplement the unpaid part. when i came back, i had to keep any newly accrued PTO in the bank for baby sick days, daycare snow days, etc. so i didn’t get a vacation that year. that’s just the way it was.

    1. Lil Fidget

      Yeah, I was thinking this letter reminded me a little of one where a woman was just back from maternity leave and wanted their sabbatical. It stinks because of course medical leave and childbirth is not a “fun” thing to need to be out for, necessarily! And it’s not fair that these people wouldn’t get to enjoy relaxing time off that they deserve and need as much as anybody else. It’s just unfortunate that there’s a second task of managing the optics so that it doesn’t look like you’re prioritizing everything else over work / are never there to do the job you’re paid for :( But it’s a tough situation all around.

    2. Anon4This

      Yeah, I’m thinking about a coworker got really unlucky with a string of illnesses, then had a death in the family, and has now been off several weeks after a car accident. She has already mentioned wanting to take more time off later in the summer to be home with her kid, and there were grumblings. We all feel bad for her, and no one is too burdened by her absence, but at some point you need to be present at work consistently. It’s more of a perception issue, as unfair as that might seem. I would love to take all my PTO and then get some unpaid time off on top of that, but that’s just not how life works.

      At the same time, I think it’s more than fair to ask for the vacation – I’d just be prepared with a backup plan and hope that the new specialist can get you straightened out so you can use your PTO for fun stuff.

  27. professor

    OP, you mention that stress plays a role in your insomnia. I had horrible insomnia years ago, and when I went to get that treated, I was eventually diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. getting that under control resolved my anxiety. Just wanted to mention it in case it helps…insomnia can be caused by other disorders, may help to look into that.

    1. LW/OP

      I appreciate that :) I’ve been under treatment for depression and anxiety in the hopes that would solve the insomnia but it’s become apparent that in this chicken and egg scenario it’s the insomnia that’s causing the other two and that it has to be treated before any improvement will be made. It’s pretty maddening, let me say.

  28. J.B.

    OP – I hope you get a solution for the insomnia. I also hope your boss is willing to work with you on this, and agree with what others have said about making known that you’re covering for others as much as possible.

  29. Just wondering

    As someone with a sleep disorder who knows what it like, I hope you get things resolved soon OP! Sending good vibes your way!

    (In regards to the first letter, the one about the coworker who always took time off meaning the OP of that letter couldn’t, was there ever an update? I know it’s an old letter so there is probably no chance of an update but I really want one for that letter. I searched but couldn’t find anything. Does anyone know if the OP sent an update anywhere?)

  30. Linda Greene

    Letter writer, I completely feel for you, you are in a tough situation. But as a manager, I have to agree with some of the other commentators that the optics are not good. It is not fair, but it is reality. You might want to find out if your company even allows you to take unpaid leave. I worked for a firm that for labor law reasons in their state, only allowed FMLA or medical disability. If you wanted unpaid leave, you switched to contractor status and lost benefits, among other things. The fact that your manager is already concerned with you absences does not bode well. It would be disappointing to have to cancel your vacation, but be prepared to do so. And I don’t mean to be flip and I don’t mean to sound harsh, but do not assume that just because you do a great job you aren’t replaceable. That said, ask early and I hope it works out. Keep us posted.

  31. Nicole

    This is a sticky situation. I do hope you’re granted the trip OP, because I can identify with you on how long this has taken to set up and how you’re finally financially able to. I will be looking for an update to this story, hopefully after your honeymoon!

  32. GreenGirl

    You have my sympathies, OP. I can’t imagine how frustrating this is for you. I hope you get help soon!

    One thing I might consider too is your coworkers. I was on a team of three: my manager, my coworker and myself. My coworker and I did the same job. She was very sick and went out on emergency leave for two months. It was a busy period so very, very difficult for us at work, but we knew how unwell she was so no one complained. The day she returned she started talking about what coverage was going to look like when she went on vacation for two weeks — in a week. Yes, it had been scheduled ahead of time, but to be honest I was so angry. I was exhausted and burnt out from doing the work of two for two months and needed a break myself!

    My example is a little extreme, but I would encourage you to make sure that your coworkers are completely covered. You don’t need their approval to go away, but definitely make sure that you make it as easy as possible on them. They are probably very understanding of your absences, but they are also most likely doing a lot of heavy lifting while you are gone.

    Best of luck!!!!

  33. Mom MD

    You’d better be well versed on the legalities of FMLA because it is not a fail-safe to protect your job. Any type of abuse can result in firing. Had I been chronically absent for any reason I don’t think I’d be planning a trip and asking for more time off.

    1. Observer

      I don’t see any indication that the OP is going to abuse FMLA. There is no hint that the honeymoon is going to be presented as FMLA leave. Just because it comes after or concurrently with FMLA leave, doesn’t make it abuse of FMLA.

  34. HeyAnonnyNonnyNo

    My views on the medical leave vs leave-leave interaction is irrelevant (cos I’m in the UK), but I have to say that as a manager a leave request where the trip has already been booked causes serious metaphorical side-eye from me. It definitely smacks of forcing the manager’s hand and is frankly likely to impact future goodwill, which sounds like a commodity you need to be careful of here.

    1. Argh!

      Not to mention, giving coworkers (who know the details in this case) the idea that they can armtwist the manager when they want to take a vacation, too.

  35. Anie

    Hi LW-

    You’ve gotten a lot of really good advice here, and I’m crossing my fingers for you with your health and your job!

    FWIW, I saw you mention that you and your husband haven’t taken a vacation ever, and this has been a long, long time coming. My partner and I come from very similar financial situations and upbringings. We’ve really struggled over the years as various life stuff as happened, and we’ve never been ever to get a full week away anywhere as a vacation.

    What we have done is take a handful of a little 2/3 day trips. I find that even getting away to say, a small town a couple hours away, for two days can be super refreshing and recharging, and can really breakup that stuck feeling. We may not be able to get anywhere tropical or cross country, but we’ve seen some great small towns, and several large cities along the East Coast/Mid Atlantic- we can Amtrak them from where we are, which also really cuts down on costs.

    Doing it this way is a lot cheaper, a lot easier to plan around with both our work schedules, and a lot easier to move around if something comes up. It gives a chance to get away and get a break from our lives and to see things that aren’t what we see every day. We do our best to make to them a big deal, even if they’re just overnight trips. Every year in early December around an anniversary for us, for example, we go to New York for two nights/three days. It is one the highlights of my entire year, every year. Now that it’s summer, we’re planning an overnight trip to an amusement park that’s an hour and half away, and we might try to make it the beach later in the summer- something we’ve never done.

    This got super long, but the point is, you don’t always need a lot of time to take a much needed break. Maybe if you can’t work this out with your job, you and your husband can at least get a way for a weekend to somewhere romantic/relaxing? I know you said August is an anniversary of some kind for you guys, and that way you could still do something to celebrate and have time together?

    I hope it all works out for you!

  36. AnitaJ

    OP, I wish you well. I know how extremely difficult it is to juggle chronic health conditions and work, especially when you’re a conscientious employee, as it appears you are.

    I think there is some great advice on this thread about being proactive with your manager, and I believe that you’ll have a positive outcome. I truly hope you’re able to take your honeymoon time, and that your insomnia improves. Congrats on being a newlywed!

  37. AL

    I don’t know if this has already been suggested – but I’ve also struggled with Chronic Insomnia, and after eliminating Apnea as the possible culprit, I found a CBT-I therapist and it was the best thing so far. I’m still a sensitive sleeper, but it lightened the anxiety/phobia surrounding sleep and I don’t feel like insomnia runs my life anymore.

  38. Leslie knope

    I’m really confused about the comments in posts lately. A lot of these seem exceptionally unkind and clearly don’t understand the nature of chronic illness. The idea that someone should be willing (nay, jump at the chance) to forgo a vacation because they had to take time off for an illness is mind-boggling and I’m frankly astonished people are defending it (but not that astonished, given the white-collar bent of the commentariat). The people accusing her of trying to manipulate her boss and being weirdly hostile are even worse.

    Clearly if attendance is an issue there needs to be discussion with the boss, but wtf @ the general tone here….

    1. Lil Fidget

      I always think people can be kinder in comments, but I think most of us are speaking from experience that a company gives a certain amount of PTO and doesn’t usually look kindly on employees taking more, especially if it’s an “optional” vacation pushing them over. OP also indicates that their manager has expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of time they’ve been out, so I think some of us are worried about the optics of asking for more right now. That said, I’m really hoping that we’ll get an update that the conversation went okay and that OP can take this trip.

    2. President Porpoise

      TBH, I think it’s incredibly privileged to try to take vacation after so many absences that you’ve used up your PTO bank – regardless of reason. Vacations, while nice, are not a necessity. Being able to maintain your job, take care of your medical issue, and put food on your table is so, so much more important.

      I say this as someone who had little or no PTO, chronic insomnia, and very little money for many years not that long ago. Prioritization is key here to prevent getting yourself into a bind you can’t get out of easily.

    3. animaniactoo

      I don’t think she should jump at the chance, but yeah – she should really really be prepared to.

      It’s not your fault you’re suffering with a chronic issue. Neither is it the fault of your company, your co-workers, and everybody else who has to deal with some of the results. Managing that is going to mean sacrificing stuff until you are stable again. It’s going to mean showing that you get your work is your responsibility even if your condition has made that difficult for you. That you are working to keep the impact as minimal as possible – and that means considering all your time away from the office, whether it was voluntary or not.

      I’m already 7 days in the hole for PTO this year which has primarily been an issue I’m on the tail end of recovery for AND now know that I can run up against stuff which might mean it recurs again 3 or 4 years from now – particularly if I’ve gotten pretty laid back and stopped being so strict with myself about the dietary changes (I seriously had to remove about 1/3 of my regular diet and I was already on a semi-restricted diet – the narrowing sucks).

      I’m not hostile to the OP, but I think she hasn’t been viewing the impact of her situation very realistically and needs to step back and recalibrate.

      1. animaniactoo

        That is prepared to give it up – not prepared to jump at the chance. 1st sentence wording was confusing.

      2. Argh!

        I agree. It’s not like LW wants time off for life-saving surgery. A vacation that’s been postponed for 8 months can be postponed for 9 or 10 or whatever.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago

      Being realistic about how this is likely to appear to OP’s manager and coworkers isn’t unkind.

    5. knitcrazybooknut

      Agreed. Illness is illness. If it’s chronic and something difficult to treat, that’s frustrating and painful for the employee already. I had a friend who had to leave her job because she was assessed as fully disabled. An acquaintance said, “Must be nice for you.” She responded, “Yes, except for being disabled.”

      I think it shows a cultural difference/indifference to those with chronic illnesses when we say they shouldn’t be allowed to take vacations. I get the optics, I get the workload, I understand all of those things. I still think it’s ridiculous that someone wouldn’t be approved to take a vacation because they have been absent. If it were my employee, and they were getting their work done, we’d have a decently straightforward talk about it. But I would assume that they would be much healthier having taken the vacation!

    6. soupmonger

      The general tone is not unkind. Most commenters are not offering outpourings of sympathy, but are seeing the employers and co-workers view of the situation. I see real viewpoints and opinions, but I don’t see unkindness.

      The OP wrote in to a problem page because she had a problem. Comments are part of that problem’s solution; the comments will not necessarily agree with the OP’s view on things.

  39. Lily in NYC

    OP, I know this is not the answer you want to hear. I also suffer from life-long insomnia (my mom says I was a creepy baby who didn’t sleep much) so I really feel for you, I know what you are dealing with. It tends to get much worse for me this time of year (when winter turns into spring). It is so tempting to take off blocks of time to catch up on my sleep but I’ve learned I can usually manage taking one day every few weeks when it starts catching up to me (I know everyone is different and it might not work for you). Then I got vertigo. Holy crap. Vertigo and insomnia were a terrible mix and I had to take three weeks off because I could not function. It was a pretty busy time for me at work and I was planning to go on a safari with my family not too long afterwards. I ended up not going on the safari because I knew it would negatively affect my team if I left for another three weeks. It sucked big time but my boss actually brought it up in my review as something she really appreciated (she would never have asked me to cancel my vacation – I did it on my own).

    1. animaniactoo

      Vertigo on its own is no picnic. It’s the condition I’ve been referring to having dealt with in my comments up and down this thread. Vertigo + no sleep? I’d be bonkers.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      I feel like going on a safari with vertigo would have likely been an unpleasant experience. Vertigo is the worst.

  40. Grace

    Maybe getting a sleep study done would be a better use of resources than a honeymoon.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      OP said that she has had several sleep studies done and is in the process of scheduling an appointment with a specialist. She is not here for medical advice.

    2. Observer

      Did you even bother to look at what the OP had to say about the matter? Even if you couldn’t be bothered, did it not even occur to you that MAYBE the OP has already done that? You know, you could have ASKED.

      As it is, the OP says that several sleep studied have been done, they’ve been to more than one specialist, and they are awaiting an appointment with yet another specialist. It hardly sounds like they are not trying to take reasonable measures to deal with the medical problem.

    3. Lily in NYC

      Maybe reading the entire letter before being snarky would make you less rude. Or maybe not.

  41. Cat

    I don’t think I have anything useful to contribute job advice wise but I wanted to let you know that it sounds like you have been going through a lot and I hope things look up for you soon!

  42. RB

    LW – chronic insomnia is tough to resolve. If you find a treatment that works for you, send an update and let us know. I think your plan of coming in late to get a few extra hours of sleep is great — it’s not like you’re missing most of the day when you do that. Two more hours of sleep (if you’ve been up most of the night) can totally make the difference between being totally worthless at work and being mostly functional.

  43. Argh!

    As a supervisor, a lot of my calculation would have nothing to do with your honeymoon plans. I would look at your leave balance, your time in the organization, work needs in August compared to other months, the impact on other workers, just as I would if you hadn’t made advance plans.

    The fact that you made plans before having the time off and everyone else knew it would also be a factor depending on the people involved. If they may all think “Argh! made a special exception for a rare type of reason,” then that would be in your favor. But if there’s drama around August vacations, and I worry they’ll think “So that the trick to getting time off in August – make advance plans and use special pleading to get Argh! to throw out the usual system,” then I’d deny the request. Vacation or leave-of-absence requests are just requests, not demands.

    I once let someone take a month leave-of-absence for an educational opportunity related to her job, and I got a lot of heat from a department that had recently had a 3-month maternity leave that we helped cover and another person had taken 3 months for medical reasons. To my mind, covering any absence is equal in the impact on work, but to other people they decide if they’re happy or not by what the reason was. (I actually did talk them through their objection to the point they realized they had a choice whether to feel put-out about it. They still grumbled but they knew it was on them)

  44. A Non E. Mouse

    I do something similar, I hate to even really admit it, but when I’m having trouble falling asleep I “walk through” Target in my head, cataloging what I’d stock up on if the world had ended, most other people were gone and I had free rein to hoard the important stuff.

    I usually fall asleep right as I’m prioritizing the “feminine needs” aisle.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      Okay, this is awesome. I’m definitely trying this the next time I can’t sleep. Thank you!

  45. Anne

    First of all, OP, I really hope that your situation improves, as you are clearly in a very difficult situation. In addition, the way that you interact with the comments suggests that you are a nice person, and willing to take in criticism and alternative views. I really wish that everything will turn out well for you.

    In regard to my comment, I apologise if they are seen as harsh, because I am a bit biased due to having experienced a similar thing via the view of a co-worker. I am writing this comment to urge you to seriously examine the point of view of your coworkers. I am not saying that you are not, but I just feel that there might have been factors that you haven’t considered.

    Recently, one of my coworkers has been taking many days off due to illness and family issues, and while I can relate to both of them personally, there is still a limit because this means that I had to work six days for many weeks with only a single day off. In addition, there were even times when this was on a short notice, when I went to work on what was meant to finally be a weekend. As I said, I was sympathetic to her situation, but at the same time, it was starting to take a toll on me. Despite how hard I could try, if that situation had continued any longer, then it would definitely have an affect on the way I treat and view her. Your constant absence means that your coworkers are constantly covering for you, and regardless of how nice and sympathetic they are, this would have a cause. Also, if they are such a nice group of people, is this really fair to make them cover even more work again? I am not saying that you can’t go on a vacation due to your illness, but I don’t think you should after you have had so many days away, due to the impacts this would have had on your coworkers.

    Another thing that many people pointed out is the possibility of your coworkers wanting that time, and this is not so much directed at you, but just a general comment: how can we be so sure that none of your coworkers didn’t want that time off? I recently went on vacation and I am not the type that likes to talk about my vacation, so only a few people knew about it. As mentioned if said coworker who caused me to had to work extra days wanted to go on a vacation and have this affect me, I would definitely take this to HR due to this being unfair. That someone who had so many days off could have more days off for a holiday, while I could not have a holiday despite having worked so many extra shifts.

    In addition, I don’t feel that it is fully fair to use the argument that this being a honeymoon and a once in a time vacation should take priority. I am not saying that you are, because I don’t think you are, but I am just saying that this is a possibility of what could happen if there is conflict due to another wanting the time off too. Perhaps my vacation is not a honeymoon or my first ever vacation, but it is still something very special due to what it means to me. If my company denied my request due to this, I would definitely feel very upset about it.

    I hope none of what I said ends up offending you, as that is not my intention, but I just want to offer a possible view of your coworker due to having been in a similar situation.

  46. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

    Wish I had some advice or a magic solution, but can only join you in giving the middle finger to insomnia. Poor sleep affects every aspect of your life, sometimes in ways you can’t imagine. People who haven’t experienced insomnia don’t realise how bad it gets. You sound like a good person who’s dealing with something really stressful. I wish you all the luck in the world finding an answer and being able to get back to normal.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      Putting this in a separate comment: You didn’t write in for medical advice, so I won’t offer any. If you are interested in hearing what helped me, reply to this comment and I’ll be happy to share.

      1. LW/OP

        Please do share! I did write in another comment somewhere about what all I have tried, so if it’s on that list it probably won’t work, but I’m always open to something new.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

          Hi! Apologies for the delay. I went through the post to make sure I wasn’t repeating anything, and I asked a friend for their perspective as well. It’s possible I missed something, so please forgive me if there’s a suggestion for something you’ve already tried. If you have any questions you want to ask privately, Alison is welcome to pass on my email address to you.

          * Meditation: You mentioned stress as being an issue. Meditating at some point during the day can help a lot. I aim for 45 min per day, but even 20 min a day can have a big impact. A basic technique to get you started (you can adjust to suit you): Breathe in on one, breathe out on two. Do this up to ten, then go back to one. This keeps your focus on your breathing and your conscious mind concentrating on counting. If you find yourself losing your place or your mind wandering, don’t worry. Just start again at one.

          * Low iron or B12: You can order your own tests if your doctor doesn’t want to do them. The best B12 supplement is methycobalimin – it’s the most easily absorbed. For iron, you need all four tests: serum iron, ferritin, TIBC (total iron binding capacity), percentage saturation.

          * Low/high cortisol: Get the saliva test, four samples throughout the day. Blood test isn’t as accurate and one saliva sample isn’t enough.

          * https://stopthethyroidmadness.com/2013/09/14/three-sleeping-issues/ – Some more info here if you have thyroid issues, it could apply to you. The whole site is essential for thyroid patients.

          * The last thing is less specific, but my friends and I have encountered this. If there’s an issue or problem you’re not wanting to address, sleep is the time when it comes to the fore. It’s easy to push aside during the day when you’re busy, but it’s harder to do when you’re trying to sleep. Until it’s addressed/acknowledged, it will continue to mess up sleep patterns. (When I say address, I don’t necessarily mean resolve. Acknowledging it can be enough, e.g., “I’ve been avoiding thinking about [issue]” or “I’m really scared about [issue]”, or whatever it might be.)

          If I come across anything else, I’ll post here. Good luck with everything! You’re doing your best and should be proud of yourself for trying so hard.

  47. Argh!

    Since others have recommended methods for dealing with insomnia, I’ll add mine:

    C-Span video of Senate fillibusters. If those dont’ put you to sleep, nothing will!

  48. e

    LW, in my experience, my boss, who is a butts in seats kind of person when it comes to attendance, is also a wander into your office/up to your desk to ask about necessary work thing/dole out small assignment and chat kind of person. As a result, that’s kind of our office culture, and I can tell you that when I do want to reach one of the admin staff to confirm something/ask for more context/give them a small assignment, there is a small, momentary irritation when they’re not there. Often, it’s irritation at myself, because, for example, I knew that Rockstar Admin’s school schedule had changed and I should have remembered, but I know I can check with her tomorrow if I need to.

    However, there was one admin in my office who was competent but not fantastic about attendance in that she consistently used up all her PTO with unscheduled absences, whose attendance eventually went off a cliff (using up all of her PTO before June on unscheduled absences to say nothing of the days she came in late) and was terminated. Now, she never disclosed a medical condition that was causing all of her absences that may have made people more sympathetic, but the fact that she was not able to come in on even a reduced schedule eventually caused a lot of resentment.

    It took that admin 2-ish years to wear out the good will she had built up with our boss and the whole office. And there were many points where the situation was salvageable, but the longer it went on, the more people started to be irked by things in her history that had never really been issues before (using up all of her PTO in previous years – as she was entitled to! – on unscheduled absences in the past).

    Your situation, LW, is obviously very different, but there are a couple of things from this you may want to consider. The first is that, in a butts in chairs culture (or with a butts in chairs manager) unplanned absences are much harder/more irksome to deal with that planned absences. Not sure if this is part of your FMLA ask already, but it may be helpful for your relationship with your manager if she just never expects you before 11am (or whenever) because then she’s experiencing fresh irritation multiple days per week where she’s expecting you on time and you arrive late.

    The second is that even if you taking vacation time for your honeymoon ends up being “okay” now, if your health situation goes on for a lot longer (and I hope it doesn’t! I hope you’re able to see a specialist and have things drastically improve for you!) you may end up in a position a year from now where you may still be struggling and having to ask for accommodations. If it gets to that point, you have to be aware that in evaluating your overall work performance, your manager may look back at your taking vacation when you were already struggling with attendance as a mark against you, even if she was okay with it at the time.

    And while I hesitate to even bring this up, I think in evaluating your situation, you also have to take into account that insomnia is one of those conditions that people sometimes self-diagnose and that the cultural perception of insomnia isn’t necessarily as a debilitating illness the way, for example, cancer or kidney disease is. It sucks, and it’s not fair, but it’s something to be aware of as you’re gauging how much of the goodwill you’ve built up at your job you want to spend on taking this vacation now vs. the consideration of how much you may need in the future.

  49. Tachy IT Lady

    OP,

    As someone who suffers from a medical condition and has used the majority of PTO for sick time- I really do not suggest using LWOP for vacation. Most companies I’ve worked for reserve LWOP for emergencies/maternity leave/medical leave. I personally haven’t been able to take a vacation in years, but I understand that my company and coworkers should not be penalized for my condition. My coworkers have been very sympathetic about covering for me, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with them covering for time off beyond what I’ve been allotted, until I have had enough time in the office/accrued my leave again. FMLA will protect you for any time off related to your medical condition, but it will not protect your job while you’re on vacation (even if your boss reluctantly approves).

  50. CCM Ltd

    OP, I just wanted to comment on how wonderfully gracious you’ve been throughout this thread. There have been some difficult pieces of feedback (some fair, some not so fair IMO) and you have responded to each with poise and without a trace of defensiveness (even in times where defensiveness was warranted). You’ve apologized for comments that could have been misconstrued and you’ve advocated for yourself articulately and not at the expense of others. Just want to say I think you’re a gem of a person and I’m sending All The Positive Vibes to you in hopes that it works out the way you want.

    And from a fellow insomniac, all my sympathy. Truly, being robbed of sleep is something few experience (and blessedly so, as I would never wish this on my worst enemy. Not even “leaving note at grave” boss) and few understand. Solidarity and hopes that your new doctor will find a solution!!

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