As a wife, a mother and an employee, I wear many hats. For the most part, I love the multi-faceted nature of my life and very much enjoy my job(s). I work nearly full-time now at the local university, I have a wonderful husband and three charming and challenging children and I’m totally digging this blogging gig. (Needless to say, free time is not a commodity of abundance in our household.) I’m in remission. Life is good. Well…. more accurately, life is mostly good, most of the time. Rather than my previously reliable straight-A good health and energy levels, life post-diagnosis has become much more roller-coastery and unpredictable. And therein lies the million dollar question - how to deal with the constant high level of demands of life, including the expectations from a paid employer, within the context of a highly variable and volatile disease manifestation? In this post, I will outline a number “occupational hazards” I have encountered post-diagnosis.
Firstly, there’s how to manage the cloud of uncertainty over if/when a relapse might strike and its impact on employment. As with Sam, I have a lot of “What Ifs” running through my head.
- What if my boss/colleagues find out I have MS?
- What if they don’t find out I have MS and just think I’m lazy, drunk or plain weird?
- What if I need to take a long period of time off work? What if I need to reduce my hours?
You get the picture here, folks. As if MS doesn’t cause enough angst regarding the notion of disease progression, it somehow finds a way to infiltrate my head (pun intended) and stamp its mark in an area where I’d much rather maintain the illusion of perfect health.
Leading on from this, the next big issue to tackle is that of whether to disclose MS (or for that matter any chronic medical condition) to your employers and/or colleagues. For some, the condition is clearly apparent so there is no decision to make, but for many of us, the invisibility of the disease presents a dilemma. Is a frank disclosure of the condition going to help or hinder workplace relations? More troublingly, does the revelation of a chronic disease have the potential to affect future promotion? These are all questions that have plagued me for many many months. Once revealed, there is no going back, and since I am, at this point, less affected than even The Unaffected One, I have so far opted for non-disclosure.
Another matter that warrants discussion is how to manage fatigue. For me this is a moving target. Every day it feels a bit I get to play the hand I’ve been dealt. As with The Unaffected One, it’s the afternoons that are high-risk time periods, and like her, I also employ her tactic of outright denial. I feel if I radiate the right combination of vitality and liveliness, then maybe this will sustain me until home time. I very much enjoy the mental stimulation and social interactions offered by paid employment but I have to be mindful that I need to keep a certain amount in reserve because I’m simply not that well-positioned to come home and collapse. Even once the nightly routine of dinner, bath, books has been completed thrice over, there are still bags to pack, lunches to make, dishes to do and, if time permits… a modicum of precious Mummy-time. So I have been very careful with regards to gradually ramping up my hours of work. What seems perfectly acceptable and manageable during the highs becomes increasingly overwhelming during the lows.
Finally, I’ve had to figure out ways to lower the bar. The tuckshop helpers are my new best friends (pineapple on pizza counts as a fruit, right?). The rectangular device in the corner of the living room does a more than decent job as an evening mood-enhancer for the munchkins. And no I longer cringe when all the other mummies seemed to emanate a combination of career success and domestic bliss while I have that sinking feeling I’ve forgotten to put on make-up. Again.
What about you, my readers? How have you adapted post-diagnosis to make work manageable, especially when you lust after the mere notion of adopting a horizontal position?
Teaser image: Compliance and Safety and link that text to http://complianceandsafety.com/blog/free-occupational-safety-stock-phot/
Banner image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tm-tm/2604880125