Tag Archives: invisible illness

Chronic Illness and the Employment Trap

Here is a little something I posted on LinkedIn today, I wanted to share it here too as I think it is such an important issue to so many.

The Silent Brain Drain in the UK

I have had a job since I was 15 years of age and I am now 45. I have two Degrees and a Masters. I am a qualified solicitor and now I also have a chronic illness.

I developed my chronic illness about 4 years ago. It went unidentified for some time but my diagnosis is Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain Syndrome, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There is no cure. I was working full time, commuting into London each day and added to this I am a single mum, but then I became sick. My sickness is unpredictable and I often have to manage it day by day sometimes hour-by-hour, it manifests itself in extreme chronic pain and exhaustion. I’ve had to learn how to manage my illness, I really need to be mindful of how I spend my energy,  as we all do, but my energy is more obviously finite than other peoples. I am able to function perfectly well if I pace myself and put plans in place for this. I can use my brain and work but if I have to commute to my job first then that’ll be my energy for the day, the next few days possibly, already used up. Traditional notions of full-time work, or just work in general, are no longer an option for me, so what do I do?

Flexible working is a hot topic at the moment in the world of work and so it should be. We need to rethink how we as Society perceive the way in which people work. I feel I have a lot to contribute but as I no longer fit into any of the templates available for work I am now being forced to drop out of the system. There are thousands of people in my position and the only way to address this successfully, I believe, is to to have an overhaul of how we work and the structure in which we work. Anna Whitehouse at Mother Pukka is passionate about the issue of flexible working and I believe that for people in my position she is a real champion, also for parents, carers, anyone who has requirements that see them with needs that fall outside traditional work norms.

We aren’t going away, we won’t fade into obscurity just because we are not facilitated, in fact, the people losing out are the employers. We are the silent brain drain. #flexappeal #flexibleworking #chronicillness #silentbraindrain

 

Tired of looking at myself, wishing I was someone else

The true cost of chronic invisible illness. And I’m not talking about the strain on the NHS or the economy due to lost days at work.

I’m talking about the personal cost. I read a piece recently about a woman who had had her  Disability Claim denied because her assessing Dr decided that, after viewing her pictures on social media “the person depicted in most of these posts appears to be a young woman who is engaged in life activities, awake, smiling and alert. They do not appear to depict an individual who looks chronically ill”. He saw literally a snapshot of her life, he didn’t see the other 23 hrs and 55 mins of her day, the effort required to look happy, force yourself out of the house, to endure the ever constant pain and exhaustion is impossible to impart. Every day is a struggle, every single day.

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Ahhh when I went blind for a few months

My relationships have suffered, with my friends as, after a day at work, all I am capable of doing is getting myself home, getting my child to bed before I am literally on the floor with pain and exhaustion. So no more socialising for me unless it is in very short time frames, I have had to cancel plans so often that I just don’t make them any more. With my partner, a lot of the time, merely having my hand held hurts, I think you can see where I am going with this. He is a loving and patient man but why should he sacrifice his needs because I am ill?.

I was off work sick for a substantial amount of time and while my employer was very understanding I do realise that being a team member down impacts on the business and my colleagues, the anxiety of staying at home is real, it isn’t an opportunity to put your feet up and relax. I was due to start my Phd in January of 2016 but had to defer due to my newly diagnosed illness and I commenced in September instead. Today I saw my Supervisor and after discussions had to acknowledge that I am going to have defer this semester too and start again in the September of this year as I cannot keep up with the work required. I cried about this and I am not really a crier.

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Lots of lovely meds

I am not the mother I was or want to be. It was Lulu’s birthday last Friday and I promised her a trip to McDonalds after I got home from work and hospital (I’m in the middle of a 8 week treatment course). By the time I got home I was so exhausted and in so much pain  that I was shaking and couldn’t think straight so I lied to her and told her that McDonalds had flooded – this has actually happened before when it rains- and that we would go the next day but Saturday came and I couldn’t use the last of my energy driving there as we had to drive to a friend’s house for Lulu’s dinner, I am constantly having to make choices based on my energy and pain levels which is acceptable but of course as a parent, and friend and partner, these choices impact on others.

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Can never find a vein

I had a brain procedure sone on New Years Bank holiday Monday but my veins are so bad they couldn’t get the cannula in, after a number of goes they managed it but by the afternoon the bruise was enormous and black, I couldn’t keep it disgusted so Lu saw it and was clearly concerned, it looked awful. Why should my child have to see these things? She is 6 years of age, she shouldn’t think her mum is sick. Last ear I had Erythema Nodosum all over my arms and legs, big painful red swellings, I couldn’t have Lu on my lap or hold onto my arm because it hurt so much. How frightening for her that must have been? Not being able to cuddle mummy when ever you want because you will hurt her?

As a side issue my vanity has suffered greatly. Months of being bed ridden and increasing doses of steroids have left me overweight, bloated – hello moon face !- and spotty, thanks for the steroid endured adult acne. Lulu announced the other day that my tummy was so big it looked like I had a baby in it but that she knew I didn’t and that I was just very big – I’ve had to coach her endlessly on not using the word ‘fat’ as it is hurtful to people. She also added that her dad’s girlfriend had a very small tummy because she wasn’t big – thanks Lu, I just has t0 smile through gritted teeth and agree.

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Back in bed

I can no longer walk very far, before slowing to a snails pace as it is very painful but I walk as much as I can, you know cause its healthy and all that. I spoke with my GP about applying for a disabled badge for parking so I could park closer to the station so the walk would be sorter and the amount of pain I would have to endure would be lessened but apparently I don’t fall within the criteria, the ability to walk more than 50 metres means no badge. I can walk more than 50 meters, in agony, and pain that is so exacerbated that it remains with me most of the day. I am one of those people that fall into a grey area. The fact that I go to wok every day appears to mean that there is nothing wrong with me, that I need no other support or assistance. I go to work, because I have to, not because I necesarily feel well enough to do so, I have responsibilities, a child, a mortgage and it’s just me and my daughter.  So essentially unless I am entirely bed ridden I am not eligible for any assistance. The fact that a day at work (see feature photo of me on train home) means that the other 12 hours of the day are  written off is irrelevant. Cleaning my house is a painful exhausting  and very time consuming event, so I am caught in a Catch 22. At the moment I feel like I am merely existing, functioning, getting though one minute, one hour, one day at a time. Doing the practical and necessary things as far as I can and then there is nothing left for ‘me’. My Phd was for me and now that has had to be shelved.

This post isn’t about self pity, I don’t feel sorry for myself, I feel upset and frustrated and tired and old and frightened. I never thought that at 42 I would feel this way. Never.

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Getting dressed & putting on make up took all my energy that day

So the long and the short of it is just because I look ok, just because I go to work everyday, just because I smile does not mean in any way that I am actually ok. Invisible illness is real, it affects 1000s of people, trust me when I say that I do not feel good. I am trying my best, my absolute best, I cannot explain how hard I am trying.