This was some great advice I had from my acting manager and colleague at work.
I had a little cry at work as I had stopped taking the ‘pill’ that I went on to help my endometriosis and like any Fibromyalgia sufferer, anything I put into my body has much more dramatic side effects. I did not realise how much this tiny little pill had affected me until I agreed to stop taking it as my abdominal pain had reduced and I was suffering some side effects from its use.
I felt dreadful and very over emotional. You see it’s not just the physical symptoms that are tough to deal with but the effects this condition has on our mental health in my opinion is much more detrimental.
My colleague commented on how I spent much of my day rushing around, spending time in back to back meetings with little breathing room and I had in fact either skipped meals (very rare) or had them at my desk and no break away from my work, this was on a more regular basis. She pointed out that no one will thank me for working myself into being ill and it’s not something to put on my gravestone that I was a hard worker and that it is just a means to pay the mortgage, clearly a fibro flare was happening on a much regular basis. She was right, I knew it myself but I guess I needed to hear it from someone else.
It is very difficult trying to strike a balance between working in a competitive environment and striving to do a ‘good’ job where you are expected to be seen as a rising star and also saying ‘no’ so as not to affect your health. At work we are continually expected to do over and above our roles in order just to achieve a ‘good’ rating in our yearly review but this does often mean having to say ‘no’ to other things we may be expected to do. My diary is always very full and leaves little room to do anything else, to take on extra work on top of my day job and keep my hours to within a manageable level is a daily challenge and one I quite frankly am exhausted from.
I would recommend having regular 121s with your manager and explaining a few things to set and agree expectations. From April I will have a new manager and the first session I will be setting up with him is to talk over me, my health and agree expectations and set up much more regular 121s than the 3 a year the business requires. So here are my tips:-
- Explain what Fibromyalgia is, don’t drown your manager with symptoms but split the main areas into physical symptoms and psychological symptoms. Here are my main ones below that affect me in and out of work
- Insomnia, fatigue caused from sleeping an average of 4 hours sleep, 6 for when I take a sleeping tablet once every 4/5 days.
- Muscle stiffness and pain in my back, hips, neck and shoulders, worse in a morning.
- Increased pain sensitivity and painful trigger points.
- Nerve pain all over my body including extreme sensitivities to food, light, sound and heat causing numbness, burning, pins and needles and dizziness.
- Cognitive problems such as short and long term memory loss, concentration issues brain fog, inability to multi-task
- Anxiety, depression, confidence issues and increase in the ‘fight’ response due to nervous system responses to stimulus.
- IBS and digestive issues.
- Explain what you are doing at work and at home to alleviate your symptoms, mine being:-
- Non medicinal treatments such as massage, uv glasses, yoga and meditation
- Hired a cleaner and learnt to pace my activities in and out of work. Severely reduced activities outside of work to save my energy to be able to attend work.
- Plan in extra breaks at work, hydraulic desk and lighter tablet for travelling. Moved to a local role with less travel and a less stressful environment.
- Flex hours and work from home where necessary. Book leave if notice a fibro flare is starting.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help or say ‘no’, always put pacing and health management first no matter what.
- Work slower, keep notes. Don’t be afraid to ask people to clarify points and work expectations.
- Agree expectations between you both. What does your manager expect, need and want from you. What does ‘good’ look like? What do you expect, need and want from your line manager.
- Very important is to agree the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that you need to enable you to remain healthy and achieve your goals. For example if you struggle with travel, can the meeting be undertaken by video/phone conference. Is there specialist equipment you need? If you struggle with your cognitive behaviour then you might want to refrain from group presentations or being singled out when being asked questions in a public forum.
I hope you have found the above useful and if you have any questions/concerns then please do ask.