You and I work together. Maybe you’re my boss, maybe you’re the person I share front counter with or maybe you’re the person sitting in the office cubicle next door.
As far as you’re concerned, I’m just a regular person with regular feelings and a regular kind of life. What you may not know is that there is a lot going on beneath the surface, a lot I don’t say.
You don’t know that some mornings, planting my feet on the ground is worth celebrating. That lifting my head off the pillow and washing my face and neck, even having a shower, are things that deserve a pat on the back.
I have depression.
You don’t know that sometimes, when work gets really stressful or someone says something that triggers a bad experience (a poorly-timed joke, a fast movement), that I hide in the toilet on my phone to distract myself and pretend that I’ve eaten something terrible.
I have post-traumatic stress disorder.
You don’t know that I see a psychologist because I have panic attacks sometimes that make me really worried and scared. She’s really nice but it’s hard to tell her things sometimes. When I walk out of her room I also feel really tired and lethargic and emotionally hungover.
I have anxiety.
You don’t know that when you give me a task to do, I can’t always do it as quickly as you expect me and that when you yell at me or hustle me along it makes me scared to tell you the truth in case you fire me for it, or give someone else the important tasks.
I have dyslexia.
What we need are people willing to listen and the patience to learn. We need modified tasks that will increase our capacity to perform. A modification that I promise is not more hassle than it’s worth. What we need is more education about disabilities, especially the ‘invisible’ ones.
But I think we need to be more honest with the people we work with too. There is stigma everywhere, and we have the power to control things a little. Talking candidly about our disability, opening up to our co-workers about some of the things we find difficult, talking about the ways our disability helps other aspects of our employment. This gives our bosses and colleagues the opportunity to exercise patience, to practice understanding and to modify tasks to help us grow. It’s a two-way street, and we need to lead with our ability too.
If your disability has prevented you from finding a job or has led to you losing a job because you’re scared of the way you might be hindered, judged or perceived, talk to ON-Q. This organisation will help you not only get a job, but help you get the confidence to enter the workplace with a genuine desire to contribute and excel. If you’re unemployed and living with a disability in northern NSW and South East Qld, pop in your details here.