It’s Monday, and I wish I was at work.
Now a lot of you are probably thinking I’m crazy, and I am. While you’re getting up early in the morning to face the rush hour commute to go to a job you may not even enjoy, I could still be snuggled in my bed, fast asleep without a care in the world, right? Well, that’s the scenario you probably have in your head, but it’s far from the truth. As a Person with Chronic Pain (PwCP), I’ve probably been awake half the night because pain wouldn’t let me sleep; every muscle feels like concrete and every joint feels like someone has twisted it, put it into a machining vise and then clamped it three times tighter than necessary.
My brain hurts too…I want to be going to work with you. I loved my job prior to going on Long Term Disability (LTD) and the jobs I held before that. I was an Administrative Specialist at several different companies, mostly supporting Retail Operations and the people who managed the work; Directors, District Managers and Store Managers. In the past, I’ve worked for Rogers and Bell and my last company was The Forzani Group, now known as FGL Sports. I supported the group that ran the former Sport Mart stores (now closed), but am still considered an employee of FGL Sports while on LTD. I receive an employee discount and recently celebrated 10 years with the company.
I worked with an amazing group of people. I loved going into my job every day, knowing it was going to be challenging and fun and never knowing exactly what the day might bring. I organized team training events for Store Managers, travel and training for the District Managers, travel for the Regional Manager Rob Hillier and kept the Director, John Hould on track for his daily activities.
Then came the days when work started to become difficult. Too difficult. I had been doing all of this under the radar of Invisible Illness, which none of them knew about but it was starting to become an issue. Things that used to come easily to me became a struggle. I was famous for remembering things without needing a list and suddenly I was carrying notebooks with me because the Brain Fog was so bad. I would stop conversations in the middle of speaking because I forgot what I was saying. My pain levels were getting higher and higher but I refused to use a cane at work for my bad hip to ease the pain as I didn’t want to be perceived as being weak or incapable of being effective (this was prior to my right hip replacement). I couldn’t concentrate during meetings and even typing became a challenge – it still is to this day.
Once all the Sport Mart stores were closed, there wasn’t really a job for me any longer, so the HR department encouraged me to go on Short Term Disability while I figured out my health issues. Short term became Long Term, and I never went back. My last day of work was in October of 2009. I started with the company in February of 2008. That’s right…I’ve been on Disability with FGL Sports for over four times longer than I worked for them. It was distressing for me to have to leave, because I loved the work and I was very good at what I did. My identity was wrapped up in my work and had been since I first started my career in 1991. When I found myself at home on leave, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I slept a lot in the beginning which was healing, but after that, I didn’t know what to do. I felt invisible, as I’ve discussed on this blog before. And being invisible can be a very painful thing. People accused me of not wanting to work, that this was an extended vacation for me, and that was really hurtful. If they could see inside me, they would know how very much I wanted to be back at my desk, with meaningful work to do. The mistake I made is that I didn’t go around complaining about my health at work, so no one knew how badly I was hurting except for a couple of select people in HR, plus my bosses John and Rob.
I’ve asked my friend Tori Martin if I could share a quote here that she recently posted on Facebook and she graciously gave me her permission. This is what she said:
“STOP suggesting that people with disabilities of ANY kind just aren’t trying hard enough.
There are VERY few people who don’t want to work and contribute in a meaningful way according to society standards. Additionally, being able to work is NOT the ultimate measure of a person’s worth. Frankly, I am much more impressed at how a person treats others than what kind of work they do.I myself am unable to work due to physical limitations and it drives me crazy sometimes. Guess what though, I still have an incredible amount to give! I contribute to society through my photography, through having a huge heart that shows so much love and concern of others, through helping others, through occasional teaching of archery which helps many find confidence and enjoyment in physical activity. I contribute by paying taxes, voting, getting involved in local groups and causes and supporting local businesses. I am NOT a waste of space. And not that it’s anyone’s business, but I worked from the age of 10 until I was 39 and was literally bed-ridden for 2 years. My dr’s have been trying to help find ways of giving me back quality of life and things are so much better than those first two years, but nowhere near where they need to be to hold down even a part-time job. Telling people with mental or physical disabilities they have no worth if they can’t work is b*llshit and needs to stop. I am disgusted to have to say this after reading comments on a friend’s post. Apparently compassion and empathy is something that some folks just don’t have.”
I think Tori really nails it with that comment. She lives with Rheumatoid Arthritis that really affects her hands and I know for a fact that she would love to be working if it were possible. Her friend John Hewak responded with this reply to her post:
“What makes it worse is that we feel the need to justify ourselves, due to both real and perceived judgement from others. People say things like “must be nice”, or “how can I get that?” Well first get f*cking sick, really sick, lose almost everything, navigate the tortuous health system, marshal up a posse of docs, specialist, therapists etc who validate you, get a lawyer, get on welfare, go through the painful application procedure and wait months to hear back while you sink into poverty. Most applicants are rejected first time . Repeat and rinse. If the institutional, bureaucratic, legal, and medical stars align, you might be accepted, in which case you get $1,000 to live on monthly., while you struggle with pain and alienation on a daily basis. Try that for a while. Wow, it’s so great not to work! Living the life of Riley.”
And finally, a third friend named John Poulson replied:
“I have found that people who give the most are the ones who have experienced hardship the most. People who have never experienced hardships have absolutely no idea or clue of what life really all about. It’s not about “things” but the experience you lend or give to others. Having compassion and showing that there are people out in the world that do care. Live; love; laugh. It’s the tears that makes one appreciate the good things in life. That’s my motto. ❤️❤️”
It’s hard to be at home when you’d rather be out earning a living. Everyone thinks we have it so great, but when you’re housebound and feeling like crap, there’s nothing fun about it at all. We tend to be forgotten by our friends and sometimes our family members as well. We don’t get to go out and do “fun” things whenever we want – our time is generally taken up with Doctor appointments or physiotherapy treatments, etc. anyway.
So, to wrap this up, don’t forget your friend or family member who lives with Chronic Pain from Invisible Illness. Call them, ask to stop by for a visit, or to take them out of the house for a bit, whether it’s for lunch, or just a drive. They will let you know what they’re up for and how much energy they have. Even if they say no and they’d rather stay home, just keep in touch. That’s all we’re asking for. And don’t assume we’re being lazy. Trust me…most of us would rather be working if it were possible.
At least I would.
Remember…there is always hope.