It's launch day! Foggy got overexcited yesterday and is snoring softly next to me at Foggy HQ. I have insomnia, a pain in the bum M.E. symptom (sleep disturbances), so am taking the opportunity to write this blog post.
I was contacted via social media this week by a female M.E. sufferer who is finding full-time employment a struggle. She asked me if I felt like a burden in my working life and asked if I knew of any jobs for people suffering from M.E. I was unable to give a comprehensive answer because of the word limit but I told her that flexibility and having a sit-down job were crucial. I asked her to email me so I could give her a longer answer but received no email. So, I am taking this opportunity to send her an open letter.
This subject is particularly relevant for me at the moment as I am in the process of looking for a new job. Job hunting is monotonous, self-esteem destroying and difficult for most people. Add to that the additional factor of having M.E and it's not a great place to be. I long to be someone who can do ANY job just to get some cash. Before M.E hit I did all sorts of low-grade jobs to pay for holidays, car problems, huge phone bills. However, M.E has hit and I can no longer be so spontaneous and carefree about who I work for.
There are similarities between you and me. We are both postgraduates and both work/worked for universities and we are/were both struggling. Personally, I believe working in a direct customer facing role for the past 9 years did not help my M.E. I was stuck to a rigid timetable with no breathing room. So, if I was having a bad day I couldn't moderate my activities. For example, instead of being on my feet facing the public, in a perfect world I would have been out the back doing admin work. I would still have been working, just not physically moving about wearing myself down to the point of exhaustion. I left that place of employment in September 2015. Its unyielding nature was one (small) reason for my departure. I don't know what role you work in at your university but if it is customer facing I suggest you think twice about its suitability. I loved mingling with a wide variety of people on a daily basis. I am a very good communicator. Unfortunately, it takes a huge amount of energy to be a point of contact that involves hundreds of conversations, often complex, each and every day.
Because of my love for social media, creativity, and communication skills, I am now looking for associated roles. I know I can contribute 100% to any organisation I work for. The only thing I ask in return is flexibility. Rest breaks are crucial if I am to be a fully effective employee. In a perfect world, every hour I would have a 5-minute break just to go and sit somewhere quiet and recharge. This time could then be taken away from my lunchtime or added to my leaving time. Whether I get that ....who knows. I know what works best for my body. It is something an employer should consider if they want me to be as productive as they need me to be. Those employees who take regular breaks to have cigarettes? Consider M.E my cigarette.
I am sure that the longer my job search goes on the more I will be tempted to accept whatever job I am offered. I hope that does not happen as it won't be long before my body starts to protest. M.E is a fluctuating illness that is affected by lots of different factors. Stress and change of routine are two of my biggest triggers. Both of these triggers would come into play when I start a new job. I am hoping pacing and generally taking things slowly will get me through the transition period.
In answer to whether I felt like a burden to my employer, I would say that I did during my early M.E years. I am a people pleaser. I hate that, on some days, I am unable to give 100%. However, over time, I realised that no-one gives 100% every day of their working life. Other people have health issues too. They may also have childcare issues, external stress etc that could affect their productivity. Do not feel guilty for having a disability. Just because ours is invisible does not make it any less significant. Disabled people have the right to work too. My M.E does not define me, I am still a creative, skilled and intelligent person. It's just some days my brain likes to play games!
Foggy is working hard to raise funds and awareness for the ME Association. Please donate and help fund desperately needed medical research. Please donate via www.mefoggydog.org