One of hardest things I have had to come to terms with is not my diagnoses but having to tell people about my diagnoses. Every time, I find myself in a position where disclosure seems necessary, I am racked with the outcome or response. Two years after diagnosis, I have not actually found a comfortable way to talk about rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia in my life.
While I know that my current employer could deny me a promotion (if it came up) because of my diagnoses, they won’t necessarily admit because it would be a case of discrimination and any denial would be based on what they think is my inability to do the job. I never actually went out and told my current employers, it was something that came out in the course of doing my job and I have never shown anyone any reason to doubt my ability to do my job.
What about potential employers? I made a decision in my most recent interview to disclose RA and FMS despite the fact that I knew it may blow up in my face and cost me the position which by the way, I was not offered. From this experience, I have learned that it is a good idea not to disclose such information in an interview. Whether it played a part with this interviewer or not, such information does give a potential employer a reason not to hire you. The more I read up on the subject, the more I realize that if a disability is not noticeable, we should keep it to ourselves especially in a potential employer situation. The same applies to a current employer because it may affect your employer’s perception on your ability to do the job. Another issue that would bother a current employer is how often we visit the doctor. It seems like if you request a day off for an appointment that no one knows about, it is better than requesting one that everyone knows about.
I thought the disclosure about my conditions could be a good thing and now, I am not sure. Either way, I will never know. I now believe that disclosure during an interview is not a good idea because every employer, regardless of their situation, is concerned with the bottom line. Moreover, I sense that our problem, as sufferers, with disability or chronic pain conditions is a stigma we get as a result of the perceptions of society. It is a “catch 22” dilemma. If you talk about your pain or condition, you risk be perceived as chronic complainer or hypochondriac, and if you hide your pain, others do not believe the significance of your pain condition.
For me, I have learned that disclosure is not a good thing (I wish I had thought about that two weeks ago) and it is a lesson learned. My RA and FMS do not define me nor do they define my abilities and my abilities speak louder than my conditions. So, in the interest of learning from this experience, I won’t dwell on it and be better prepared the next time around. Experience is a good thing so the next time someone asks whether they should disclosure, I can provide my experience to them and let them make that decision for themselves.