There are a number of challenges that people with multiple sclerosis and other chronic illnesses face in navigating the workplace. Life altering conditions can affect a person’s career and income, as well as their physical and mental health.
Having a chronic illness means that many people need to take time off from work for appointments, and to recover from the disease’s symptoms. This can be a major financial strain on both the employee and the employer. Additionally it can also lead to low self-esteem and depression.
The decision to share your diagnosis with your employer is up to you. This can be a tricky path to maneuver, since the last thing we need is additional stress.
When I was officially diagnosed with MS, I was 22 and had just started my first post college career. Fortunately, my employer was very kind and understanding. When I moved 10 years later, I kept my diagnosis to myself.
The thought of being judged, labeled, or even doubted made me cringe. It also added additional stresses of trying to hide my symptoms, cover up my inabilities and when things became really bad, hide the fact that I couldn’t stay awake at my desk.
The decision to stop working is a difficult one, and it’s important to discuss your options with your doctor as well as your family and support circle.
There are many symptoms that impact a person’s ability to work. Fatigue is a very common symptom and learning ways to conserve energy may make it easier for you to continue working at your full capacity.
For example, when experiencing fatigue, make sure to rest when you need to, and try to stay hydrated so that you don’t feel sluggish. Regular movement designed for you can also help with staying fit and healthy, which can reduce your fatigue.
Pain is another issue that may affect your ability to work. There can be a concern due to the symptoms of MS with spasticity and gait problems, which can also cause joint and muscle pain. A visit to a specialist can help you find answers to alleviate your symptoms and prevent further damage.
Cognitive changes can also impact your ability to work. About half of all people with MS experience some form of cognitive decline, which can impact their jobs and relationships. Many report this is directly correlated to their fatigue. This is often a slow progression that may be difficult to notice, and can have an impact on your quality of life and your daily activities.
If you’re concerned about your health/work balance, speak with your employer about flexible hours or working from home.
Your employment is a critical component of your income and self-esteem. It’s also an opportunity to meet new people and build professional connections. It’s a big responsibility and can be stressful for those with chronic illnesses, so it’s important to find a way to be honest about your condition without repercussions.
It’s important to manage expectations with your employer and to understand your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Family and Medical Leave Act. Keeping up to date with this information can help you with your options.
Always remember, your health and well-being are number one. Look out for yourself, you are your own best friend!
Wendy Bjork, founder of HeartsofWellness.com/you is a pioneer in advocacy and mentorship. Wendy is leading a global revolution of women walking in purpose and peace as she illumines their path ahead with the light of HOPE: Harmony, Options, Peace & Empowerment.
She empowers women to step into their boldness, stand in their resilience and own their Truth. Through Wendy’s guidance, they are finally seen, heard and understood.
Wendy has authored two books and co-authored a third, “Fired Up!,” a #1 International bestseller. She is a regular contributor on the PriceofBusiness.com digital platforms and to the National MS Society’s Momentum Magazine. She is regularly invited on discussions, podcasts, interviews as she shares her story and hope to inspire others.
Follow Wendy: wendy.sololink.me