Happy Sunday Everyone!
Today I want to talk about dealing with endometriosis at work, and how I got to a place where I can manage having a career and a chronic illness. For some they are able to have a career in various ways, for others it’s not possible to work at all. Whatever place you are in with your work, particularly if it’s not where you would like to be, it’s okay. It can be so frustrating when your body doesn’t allow you to do what you want. Nothing lasts forever though, and this includes the lows. I found that is was such a relief to accept that I couldn’t be on my game all the time. It’s impossible for anyone to be 100% all the time, and if they say they are there’s definitely some denial going on. If you gain one thing from this post, let it be that it’s okay to open up to those around you. This includes in the workplace. You may not always get the optimal reaction, but overwhelmingly you will find that people are happy to know what you’re going through because they want to support you in any way that they can.
I currently work in a typical 9-5 office job which involves a lot of sitting at a desk all day. It is quite a large organisation which has a well established HR department with processes in place to deal with all types of employee situations. I started my current job (my first ever ‘adult’ job) in June 2014 not long after moving to London. As I talked about in my last post, my endometriosis continued to flare up after making the move. I found a new specialist who performed my second laparoscopy in December 2014. At this stage I didn’t have much of a choice but to tell my boss about my endometriosis. At the time I remember I was so embarrassed and didn’t want to share anything. Now I see it as a blessing in disguise.
After my surgery I started on Zoladex injections again. These injections basically put your body into menopause which triggers a whole host of fun side effects. I was getting hot flushes in the middle of summer and it’s hard to hide these from your boss when you share an office and have to sit in front of the fan spraying cold water on yourself! My mood changes could give someone a serious case of whiplash. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve burst into tears at work. It got to the point where I just had to tell my boss everything – my male boss. We have certainly had some very interesting conversations, resulting him probably being way more informed than he wanted to be! He now knows pretty much everything there is to know about both diseases though. You could say job well done in terms of raising awareness in the workplace! I can now tell him whenever I’ve started a new treatment, what the side effects are, when I’m having a pain day, week, or month. Just as importantly, I also let him know whenever I’m not coping so well mentally.
Jumping back in time, in order to have the time off that I needed for surgery I had to submit a referral letter and medical certificate from my specialist to HR. As you know though, surgery isn’t a cure and I continue to have flare ups and treatment side effects which affect my ability to work. At my work whenever we have a sick day we have to fill out a return to work form. This resulted in a lot of paperwork which was not worth cutting down trees for. So my boss spoke to HR for me and we came up with a plan to make things a bit easier for everyone. I was able to provide letters from my doctors stating that I had endometriosis and that it was an chronic condition requiring ongoing treatment and management. I was terrified at the time and extremely anxious about what impact this might have. Would I be judged? Would it affect my progression within the company? My fears were never founded. I have full flexibility with my hours now, with the ability to take time off or work from home whenever I need to.
It’s funny, but I honestly think that having endometriosis has helped me to develop certain workplace skills in a way I’m not sure anything else could. My communication skills have improved. After speaking to the amount of doctors we do you learn how to be very clear and concise with what you want to say! Except for when I waffle away on here of course. I am also much better at time management. When you have less time to do the same amount of work, you learn how to prioritise and get shit done. The work I am producing is also higher quality because when I am in the office I want to make the most of it and give my best to the team.
I am incredibly lucky to have found a job that I truly love and believe in. I am even luckier to have a supportive boss and a company which supports it’s employees facing challenges outside of work. Not every one has this experience or the support that they need though. This is why I wanted to share how I have been able to manage a career and chronic illness so that others can go to their workplaces and show that it can be done. It was only opening up that go me to this point, if I hadn’t have shared others wouldn’t have understood and I wouldn’t be where I am today with my career. The more we talk and raise awareness, hopefully the easier it will be for others in the future.
As always, thank you for reading and wishing you the absolute best for the week ahead.