How Applying for a Job Made Me Face My Disability
Today was the day I ticked the box “yes” when they asked if I was disabled on a job application. Did I truly have to do that? No. Will I probably not get the job now? Maybe. I found myself in a situation where I felt I needed to be open about the struggles I face. Am I second-guessing myself? Absolutely. (Hi anxiety, how are you?)
Until today I had not seen myself as disabled. I am not sure if that’s a coping mechanism or denial. I compare myself to others a lot, so I just felt for a long time I was somewhere in-between. Somehow the chronic and often debilitating pain wasn’t as bad as others, but just because I wasn’t “normal” didn’t mean I was disabled.
The job application cited the U.K. Equality Act 2010 for the definition of a disability. The government’s definition of disabled, “if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.” With substantial being defined as, “more than minor or trivial, e.g. it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed.” And long term being defined as, “12 months or more, e.g. a breathing condition that develops as a result.” The definitions continue as laws tend to require that sort of specificity.
Prior to my latest diagnosis and this application, I was always relieved to get a diagnosis. I know many people react with sadness or shock when diagnosed and told there is no cure. I always felt relieved. I knew things were happening with me and I was looking for answers. I have been told many times in my life that what I was feeling was “all in my head.” A diagnosis meant vindication, something I can point to when people try to tell me what I’m going through isn’t real. I also felt someone was finally telling me that my illness wasn’t my fault. I know it never was, but I have had some unpleasant experiences with doctors. I felt a freeness in being able to give people a name. The reality felt good because I had become accustomed to people believing it was “all in my head.”
Here I sit, face to face with reality. The feeling I usually get when I share my reality isn’t there. Instead of freedom and relief I feel fear, worry and some shame. I am now that person I never truly understood who is sad and shocked. I understand you now and I’m sorry for my judgment. I am thankful that I have as much ability to do things as I do. Many people with even one of the diagnoses I have are not able to work. I am lucky but I’m afraid. I’m afraid of my present and even more so of my future.
I am well aware that legally they are not allowed to not hire me due to my health. We all know there are ways around this and that they happen. I don’t like to think the worst of people, but I like to be prepared. My cousin once gave me advice that I have appreciated and tried to keep in mind since the first time she said it, even when the circumstances change. Keep your hopes high and your expectations low. I will dare to continue to hope and I will try to temper my expectations.