Stuck (again)

We gotta talk health. Regretless decision, failing health and… Depression. It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for me, my health and general progress / wellbeing. Let’s go back to say… February 2015.. Bare with me.

Up until February 2015 I was employed full time in a job just before Manchester where I would work more than 40 hours per week over five days, sometimes more, not always being paid for all of the hours I worked. But it was a job and it afforded me some opportunities. I am grateful for it while it lasted. But I had say three months earlier decided that I would be leaving the job in February. I had no job to speak of to go to but instead I would be working for myself on my own company which I had founded a couple of months before. I would be doing a continuation of what I was doing for the company along with website design and development work.

The work was slow and sporadic but it was there and it did come. Until the unthinkable happened, something got in the way. We never found out who it was that triggered this ‘thing’ to get in the way, and we will never know. Long(er) story short(er), by May / June 2015 I was getting desperate for finances. A friend of mine said there were jobs going at his place of work so I applied and was lucky enough to get an interview. I was offered the job in the room. That was a great feeling! The job was working for Barclays Bank dealing with loans and account issues. There was a lot of training involved but I (eventually) passed and was on the job. Two weeks in, a long-standing application I had filled out months before Barclays came about contacted me to offer me an interview. The interview was in Milton Keynes, I would need a day off. So all was arranged and I was off to my second interview in as many weeks. I attended the interview and for the second time in two weeks, I was offered the job in the room. This was fantastic. The interview was with a company I had aspired to work for for many years, Amazon. The job didn’t start till January 2016 so the timing with Barclays should have been good till the contract ended at the end of the year. It would involve relocation and the company was very accommodating in this aspect. They delayed my start date on three different occasions. If I saved everything from Barclays till the end of the contract, I could afford to relocate, get setup and have enough to live on till my first Amazon pay day. Things were going ok at Barclays till November when with a day’s notice 90% of the staff including me were finished up. The year ended with me penniless again. Fuck. My opportunity with Amazon was disappearing fast and by the end of December I knew that it was out of reach. Cruelly ripped away at the last minute due to being penniless. My nose was again pressed up against that window.

Five months on after having only around three unsuccessful interviews from hundreds of applications made, another long-standing application got back to be and said there are vacancies in my area, would I like to be put forward. At this point there was nothing else going on and so I applied not thinking anything of it. I got an interview. Attended the interview and discovered the person involved in hiring to be a guy I knew from Secondary School! – I cannot be sure but I would imagine this had something to do with me getting a second interview. I passed and was offered the Job. Training would be 2 weeks followed by a week on the job shadowing.

I started and completed the classroom training, then on to the physical training and the exams. Passed all first time. Then I got sick. I’d picked up some kinda bug which put me out for a week – not the most ideal start to a new job I know! When I returned, I had missed the driving test, which would affect my time with the company significantly. The company in question was called Smart Handling, operated by a company I had worked for in the past, (briefly), Swissport. A ground handling company by whom I was employed full time as a Ramp Agent at Liverpool Airport. The physical side of the job was for me challenging but eventually I could do it (or some of it). I worked from May through till September in that job. It was great (at times) as it was real shift-work with early mornings and late nights. All in all (aside from the really challenging heavy parts and the rampant bullying parts), I really enjoyed the job. I made some friends, and mostly I was satisfied that I could do that work (at all).

In the meantime, through a twist of fate, my contact from the Amazon job informed me that Amazon was opening up a new Fulfilment Centre just south of Manchester Airport and if I would like she could get me an appointment on the Recruitment day for that. It happened and all was arranged. I passed everything and was offered the positions of Fulfilment Associate (the same position I had been offered for Milton Keynes) but this time in Manchester, which was at least drivable. The job was to start in October, so mid September I finished up at the Airport.

Starting work for Amazon was a surreal experience but one I have enjoyed greatly. Two weeks of training on Stow which is the most complex process in Inbound (the department I entered into). After meeting the target for Stow I was asked to train to Pick, this involved 3 days of training before being expected to be up to speed. I could handle this and Stow just fine. Then my manager put me onto a 2 week training course to being an Amnesty Responder. This was where the fun and games started. Amnesty Responders work in Amazon Robotics Fulfilment Centres. The Manchester Fulfilment Centre was the first Robotics Centre in the UK. AR’s go onto the live robotics floor and sort out the robots when they get stuck, or hit something, or get lost. They also retrieve objects and products from the live robotics floor where the Fulfilment Associates or Managers are not allowed. It is only AR’s and Engineers that are allowed to go on to the live floor.

Working as an AR is incredibly tiring as you are not only constantly walking, but you have to wear safety boots to get onto the AR floor too. But I really enjoy that task, much more than any other I have done so far. Unfortunately, this is also where my problems started. In December 2016 I started to experience some foot pain through the constant walking and wearing of the safety boots. This escalated to the point where I needed a week off. It is a 40 hour a week contract and I work 4, 10 hour shifts on a normal week. That gives me 3 days off a week to rest! Oh yes and I do nights and I love it. For the foot pain I was referred to an Occupational Health advisor who had suggested that I see a consultant with a view to seeing what can be done about the foot pain. This was booked almost immediately thanks fully to the private health insurance policy that I get for being an Amazon employee. I had several sessions with the consultant who tried various things before we arrived and the decision to have surgery.

In March 2017 I underwent an operation on the back of my left knee. The operation is called a Modified Strayer Procedure or Gastrocnemius Release. What happens is that the large muscle in the left of the left leg is cut near the bone. This allows the muscle to grow longer to heal itself. The theory being that the longer the muscle, the more movement there would be in the foot. The more movement there is in the foot, the more treatment options there are for curing the pain. The recovery from this procedure has been long and painful. I am undergoing regular physiotherapy and visits to the consultant and I have just (in October) received an injection of Steroids directly into the foot. This is designed to form a layer of painkilling between the tissue and the bone. This was.. incredibly painful to have done and I have so far seen absolutely no benefits from having this injection.

So we are at the end of October now and so that is almost seven and a half months later, I am still not fit for work. I was receiving Company Sick Pay, then Statutory Sick Pay and now both of those have run out. I will soon need to claim benefits (again) to be able to survive until I can return to work. Providing I get to a point where I can return to work. Amazon have been very understanding and somehow I still have a job with them. But the thought is in my head that my physical limitations may prohibit me from returning to the job I was doing, at all. That would make me sad, as I very much enjoyed doing my job while I could.

Where to go from here? I don’t know. I really don’t. I am stuck once again. Between doing what I want to be doing, and doing anything at all. When I quit my job in 2015 people thought I was crazy and when I informed them I was looking to work for myself firstly then Amazon, I actually lost some friends. But I don’t regret the decision of working for Amazon. I love my job and it is still my goal to get back to it.

No matter how unrealistic that may at this point be.