Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Diabetes and Employment

Diabetes and work, an issue that never crossed my mind - so much so that I didn't mention my serious lifelong condition to my employer (sounds even more ridiculous to type).
So my job was in fashion retail and I worked weekends - it was a relatively small part of my time so I guess I didn't feel it was necessary to confess (as if there was something to hide) to my condition. Being on MDI means my diabetes is not visible to 'outsiders' - so no one ever asked. As I've had diabetes for so long, I assume people know about it, when in reality more people are oblivious than those who know. Oh I forgot to mention that this is not my first job.. I'd volunteered prior to this; and no I didn't tell them about my diabetes either!!

My problem arose when I had to phone in sick due to a vomiting and DKA attack overnight, here came the question.. 'you never told us?!' Which was perfectly true - I didn't! The more I think about it the more I came to the conclusion that it was the stupidest decision to make. My employer went on to ask 'What would happen if there was an emergency, we wouldn't have had any idea?!' It's actually really scary to think about. But it did teach me a lesson.  

'The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about'

After my employers were informed, they gave me breaks if I felt high or hypo. I remember on one occasion where I had to sit outside the shopping centre to treat a hypo because I just felt so dizzy and lightheaded - needless to say that was pretty damn scary. For me, I always feel like hypos in my home and in public are two completely different things, especially if you happen to be on your own. Previously busy situations like school, the tube and a festival are undoubtedly stressful and fast paced (just like working in retail), so I knew when the time came that a hypo at work occurred, it would be a struggle.
However, my employers never 'got it' and I don't blame them. Whilst I was working for them, my diabetes was not..behaving if that's what you call it. My BGL were quite happy in the high teens (18's), which makes me feel very lethargic, light headed and thirsty, so so thirsty. This was in-between weekly chats with my DSN - who was doing all she could.

Explaining anything d related to someone who's not diabetic (or has absolutely no connection to T1) is the hardest thing, because they just don't get it! So phoning into work a couple times and having to explain that I couldn't do a 6 hour shift (at least) because my body was literally swimming in glucose, was a challenge. This was a problem that we never overcame, they just had to trust that I was being honest. To help explain d to the company, my DSN wrote them a letter explaining what highs and lows does to my body- but of course it was never enough. I think it's just a case of being patient.
As part of the 'back to work' forms one of the questions was 'how long was this affecting you prior to taking a sick day' (from the age of 4) and 'have you made an appointment with your doctor' (don't be silly). Now I understand that these forms are generic, are routine and clearly don't apply to everyone but it was physically laughable once I'd filled in the form once. There needs to be a 'autoimmune disease that I had no control over is doing it's usual' box I reckon.

What was the most annoying part about this was that when I said I had diabetes and obviously took days off on several occasions because I just couldn't manage and needed to be by my meter at all times, was '*insert name* has diabetes too and he's not had a day off because of it' - have you ever heard of people dealing with things in different ways?! Fuming wasn't the word - nevertheless I think this was said out of pure ignorance.
Now I'm not a religious person, but this quote seems to sum it up well :)
"Every human being is an author of his own health or disease" - Buddha

Moral of the story; be honest with your employer..you want to keep yourself safe..and since it's International Women's Day - Women I do feel like we're sometimes told to be quiet, and keep our voices down, so let's stand up for ourselves - diabetes related or not ;)


Amber xx

Twitter : @wingscanbreak

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