Having an ‘invisible illness’ can be an extremely stressful, lonely, isolating position to find yourself in. Generally, seeing a person in a wheelchair, wearing a hearing aid, or carrying a white cane tells us a person may be disabled. But what about invisible disabilities that make daily living more difficult for many people worldwide?
96% of people with chronic medical conditions live with an illness that is invisible
Illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue, mental illness, Diabetes (and many more) are all considered ‘invisible illnesses’.
I have suffered from a chronic invisible illness since the age of 14. I found the situation isolating and scary but it was something I had to adapt to very quickly. Through school and university, I suffered many symptoms such as chronic fatigue, migraines, and extreme weight loss. I didn’t reach out to anyone during my studies and felt this impacted my grades and social life.
I joined Enterprise in 2013
After adjusting to the working environment, I still seemed to struggle with symptoms of my illness. I enjoyed my career too much to let my illness get in the way of my success, so decided it was time to talk to someone. As a Graduate Management Trainee, I decided to speak to my branch manager who was sympathetic and understood the seriousness of the condition. She allowed me to be grounded in the branch on my really bad days and was very flexible with my regular doctors and hospital appointments.
I now work in the Talent Acquisition team and work very closely with the HR department. I now understand how important it is for people with invisible illnesses to speak up to those people who are able to help. Without speaking up, you will be suffering in silence.
Here are my top tips for people coping with invisible illnesses at work.
Educate your management team, HR department and immediate colleagues who may need to know why you require time off at short notice, doctors and hospital appointments or symptoms of your illness that might affect your working environment. You can find a lot of information online that you can pass to your employer, but ensure that they understand the condition and most importantly how it affects you as an individual and your own symptoms, and how it may affect you at work.
Ask for help
At Enterprise, we pride ourselves on diversity and inclusion. We will make reasonable adjustments for any employee to ensure that they are able to complete their tasks effectively. If you feel you need adjustments to reflect your illness / symptoms then speak to your management / HR department.
Take care of yourself on the job
Make sure you are taking the breaks that you should be – everyone wants to do their best in their job, but don’t run yourself into the ground! Have a change of scenery and take a break from your desk for 5 minutes if you need to, to help improve your concentration. Taking prescribed medication and eating correctly is also very important to keep well.
By Gabriella-Michela Ragno
Group Talent Acquisition Coordinator