I wanted to talk to you guys about employment and how to tackle the medical history exposure part of it. I am only going to speak of my experience, as that is what I know best.
More than likely, I’ll be breaking this post into two parts because if I don’t, I know you guys won’t read it all, and this is about to be some inspiring shit ya’ll.
So the first part is how I’m going to tell you that I totally understand employment and financial woes.
Before I was diagnosed with UC, I was working a mediocre job that I liked, but didn’t love. It paid my bills – barely – but I had enough money and freedom at my job to live a comfortable life. Then I started to get sick. And then I got sicker.
My job performance lacked and for a while my employer understood, but as I got sicker and I wasn’t as good of an employee as I previously was, their compassion dwindled. I think they thought whatever was wrong with me would go away, but when I had to leave work to go to the ER unexpectedly, which would turn into a week-long hospital stay… they weren’t so understanding.
Then the complications started. The long and short of it all is that I eventually got fired. Yes, I know that is technically illegal. But I was too poor and way too sick to do anything about it at that time. Besides, it opened up the door to grad school. The most important part of this was that I knew that I’d not be able to get another job at that time of my life. I had at least 2 surgeries approaching, and no one would ever hire me if they knew that.
Not to mention that I had already posted to the world that I had Multiple Sclerosis, and by this time I was already telling the internet about the graphic details of my bowel movements. Sure there have been moments where I thought about going anonymous, or perhaps even stopping blogging, in the fear that I would always be tainted by the healthy history I’ve posted on the internet.
But honestly (and this will sound super cheesy), I felt like it all had a bigger purpose. I knew I was helping people from the emails that I would get, and more importantly I was helping myself. I have posted my biggest ups and the deepest downs on this blog… you guys know it all. And most of the time I feel like its just you and me butt buddies. But I forget the harsh reality that the world is always lurking. And frankly, smart employers are looking for potential employees by Googling them.
There is that old adage that “If they won’t hire you because you’re sick, you don’t want to work for them anyway”. Right. Thats easy to say when you don’t need a job. The reality is that there is stuff on the internet since 2006 about my medical disasters and much more now specifically about my issues with my diseased ass. Oh..and there is that. Have you guys noticed my vocabulary? Its not like I can use this blog as a writing sample, and there is the whole ‘wanting to die’ thing that I so publicly pushed to the world. Sometimes I think I paint myself as a diseased, mental case with a tiny vocabulary.
If I weren’t me, I would have thought that I’d never get a job. At least that’s what I thought until about a year or so ago. I was still in grad school and I had a former teach approach me about a graduate student assistant position through the school. I wasn’t even looking for a job, but it paid my tuition so I said I’d take the interview. Well…I nailed it. I got a job offer that day. You guys, I felt on top of the world. For the first time since I was fired, I was working a REAL job that wasn’t under the table, working on REAL projects and making a REAL “paycheck”. Well…at least this is what I thought. The reality is this is the first time anyone had wanted to give me a job in a long time, and the first time I felt worthy of a job. It did scare me that they’d look me up and see that I was some degenerate swearing butt talker. I had my family telling me I “deserved” the job, but I didn’t feel like that. It was only a part time job and all I could think about was, “Can I even do 20 hours a week?”. But I had this shining moment where I realized that I didn’t get that job because of anything other than they thought I could do it and that I brought something to the table. This GSA position was like a real job, and I wasn’t just a gopher. I did that job well for a year until I graduated and then had planned on trying my damnest to find another job. During that year, I worked hard, played hard and met some fantastic co-workers. No one there knew I was sick, or had been sick.
And when I decided to tell them all, you know what they did? Told me that I was impressive. They didn’t say that my job was on the line or anything negative but that despite my illnesses they respected me that much more. I must have impressed them, because right before graduation, they offered me a full time job at the library. And university jobs are no joke, we’re talking like a real grown up job, with grown up money and benefits and no one gave half a shit about my health history. IN FACT…most of my co-workers donated to Girls With Guts.
I want to also tell you guys that during this time I had many conversations with friends and blog readers about finding employment after you post your crap (literally) to the world. After starting Girls With Guts, it became my goal to work for myself – that way I never had to worry about who my boss was and what would happen if I got sick again. However, working full time for your own non-profit is incredibly difficult. After graduation I had to be realistic in my job prospects…I had to find a job that would pay my bills, and give me some flexibility in my life to be able to run GWG…