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What I Want My Past Employers to Understand About Working While Sick

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​A friend shared this story, When People Judge Me for Not Working Because of My Chronic Pain, and I must confess it struck a cord, so much so I had a good cry. I often hide how not working makes me feel. It’s easier than dreaming that one day I’ll be able to have a full or part-time paid job.

Personally, I worked for over seven years while sick and it was one of the hardest things to do. Not only feeling like I could crawl through the office door daily but also the response of a few colleagues over the years pretty much left me miserable and traumatized. Retail didn’t understand, office colleagues had no empathy and pub hours don’t yield for sickness. Varied roles just didn’t agree with my ulcerative colitis.

Comments over the years like, “You’ve got it forever so just get on with it,” “Suck it up” or “Well, I’ve had this poxy cold for two weeks and haven’t complained” made me come home and cry. It was even worse when someone would compare my suffering to that of others they deemed as “worse off.” It’s not fair to compare.

I happily left employment officially in 2014 after completing my maternity leave. Removing the mental battle was the best choice for me. For someone who “didn’t look sick,” I had my colon removed only a year after leaving employment.

mom with her two toddlers in bed

Regardless of any bitterness I carry, I’m definitely happy to not be grilled by HR or managers, who have made me feel like a liar over the years. To those who listened and got me the support I needed, thank you.

I truly hope that all my past employers do their homework and adhere to the 2010 Equality Act and understand how severe IBD is and see the overall impact chronic illness can have. I offered enough info and insight into the illness, they’d be wrong not to! If they don’t, I just might be the advocate behind that employee wanting advice, so they better be ready!

I see many people with IBD struggling with understanding from their employees. This needs to change. For anyone needing advice on this subject, I recommend this link. There is advice for students too on the Crohn’s and Colitis UK website.

Sadly we struggle on what little money I receive from child tax credit and I only began receiving Personal Independence Payment (PIP) late last year, after a two-year slog. It’s been a huge strain on my partner and a huge hit to my ego. I took pride in my ability to problem-solve and work fast and efficiently. I struggle to remember what I did five minutes ago now. I hate not being able to provide for my family and dislike it technically being my partner’s money. He actually likes me being at home but of course if I could and wanted to work, he’d support me.

Not working comes with its own hardship. I get lonely, bored, struggle with my toddler and feel useless. This is one reason I started blogging and using my time to support others. It takes commitment but on my terms. If I’m sick, I can rest. Being sick is a job itself, as perfectly put in the article above, even more so with children who rely on you.

Maybe one day I’ll achieve my career dreams, but for now I accept that it may never happen. If I could advocate for ostomates and people with IBD as a job, I absolutely would. One thing leaving work has taught me is that I absolutely wouldn’t give what precious energy I have to a corporate company full of judgmental people ever again. I’d rather offer my time to those in need and those who appreciate it!

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Originally published: January 18, 2017
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