Sunday, August 22, 2010

6 months into my HIV and Hepatitis C diagnosis and now Unemployed…..

Wow!  What a whirlwind of events that have taken place over the past 6 months.  It all began back on March 3rd, 2010, when I found out I was HIV positive and the following month learned I had also contracted Hepatitis C (non IV user).  As you may have read in my report or previous blog entries for 7 years I led a life of secrecy. I was enveloped in the underground world of drugs and sex that is an unfortunate sub-culture within the LGBTQ community, and what I believe is contributing to a rise in HIV infections with regard to male to male sex.
On March 3rd, I knew I needed to get my life in check.  At the age of 32 – it was finally time to take control of my life and try and figure out what I wanted for myself.   I enrolled in an outpatient rehab program to address my addiction to crystal meth, but outpatient was not enough.   After a month and a half doing outpatient, and having relapsed a few times – I felt I needed more structure.  I received many recommendations from the CMA rooms of New York City about the Pride Institute in Minneapolis, MN.  I called on my own, and within a couple weeks I was there.  I spent 32 days inpatient in Eden Prairie, MN.
During my stay at the Pride Institute the lease where I was living with a roommate ran out, leaving me homeless.  Luckily I had been granted a leave of absence from my employer, American Express, so that my health insurance and pay continued.
For the first time in my life – I was homeless. Though, I was at the Pride Institute being fed, and had a place to sleep.  But, Homeless, at the age of 32 – there was not much pride in this.  Not only was I homeless, I had just learned I was both HIV and Hepatitis C positive, all while learning about an addiction to Crystal Meth – that is what my life had boiled down to.  My head was in a tailspin.  
What would you do? What steps would you take?  Like I said – it was time to get my life in check.  I left Pride with not a place to go to – to call my own.  I was discharged to my Father’s house in Upstate, NY.  It was a place for me to grasp everything that had been happening and continues too, it was a safe place for me.   I began my Hepatitis C treatment when I got here, and have been on it for 3 months now, and I have 3 months of treatment to go, and it will be CURED!
During my time at Pride I went through every emotion possible.  Though, in the end with the help of my peers, counselors, and other staff I emerged stronger, with more knowledge of my addiction, and with more understanding of my illnesses, and with focus and direction I wanted my life to go in.
On August 9th, 2010 my Doctor release me back to work, but my job was in NYC and I didn’t have a home their anymore.  After asking numerous times for employment opportunities within the company in Upstate, NY – in the end American Express did not have a job for me.   They may have had a virtual position, but my Dad was not about to let me work from his home.  This is a temporary move.

 My employer was nice enough to give me a 30 day unpaid leave of absence to find another job within the company, but American Express has no office locations for me in the Upstate, NY area.  Oh – and they just weren’t offering me a position. I was directed onto their website to find and apply for positions.
Was I supposed to wait these 30 days of unpaid leave KNOWING that American Express did not have an opportunity for me where I relocated to?  Or resign?  Both ways would have been processed the same – a voluntary quit.  And, come on American Express knows full well they do not have office locations in the area, and they were even privy to my medical condition.  I feel that a better solution could have been worked out, as they knew WELL in advance my current living and health situation.
So, now the unemployment process begins.  Will I get it, or not. I had to fill out a 4 page questionnaire, and send in tons of supporting documentation. Will American Express challenge my unemployment, and will my case go to a hearing?
For 6 months now my life has been a nervous wreck, with Amex’s 3rd party claims company breathing down my neck every 2 weeks for medical updates, worried about my living situation, worrying about starting the Hep C medicine, worried how the HIV meds and Hep C meds together would interact with me.   Adjusting to my living situation at my Dad’s and worried about my Mom’s health and her upcoming lung transplant evaluation and tests.
I am still not certain where my life is headed.  Hopefully I will have a grasp on everything soon.  Stay tuned and if you have a job for me, send me an e mail!

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