My Job & My MS: Learning How to Deal | MS Blog

MS Fruit resized 600Prior to my MS diagnosis I was working as a shift lead for a juice bar.  I loved my job and have nothing but good things to say about the company but the long hours, stress of management, and surprisingly heavy labor were too much for me to take on now.  I stopped work during the early stages of my diagnosis and remained happily unemployed for a few months with the help of some money I had in a trust fund. It wasn’t too long before I was ready to think about returning to work though.  I started working at a popular chain clothing store and was just enjoying doing more than being sick and going to school for a while.  I kept this job for less than 6 months but learned two things about working and my disease management:

1.    I have a disease that is considered a valid disability and it is OK for me to ask for special accommodations if I need them

Coming to this realization actually had two parts.  It has been said that one of the hardest things to do in this life is ask for help.   Asking for help means admitting a weakness, it means telling yourself and others that you are incompetent in a certain area by yourself.  Asking for help can feel like a really self-deprecating act.    The truth is that asking for help is not a negative thing; the positive side of it is that you are realistically assessing a situation while requesting and often receiving assistance to make the process easier.  Realizing that asking for help was indeed a good thing was the first part of reaching this conclusion.  Once I was comfortable asking for help I realized that asking for accommodations to work easier with MS was little more than asking for help.

I started small by requesting things like a cushioned floor mat to stand on at the register. I was experiencing extreme leg pains after long shifts and this request remedied it immediately.  I was pleasantly surprised both by my ability to be direct about my needs and the “no problem” response I got from my employer.  I soon started requesting things like not working late shifts to help manage my fatigue and time off when I found myself in the middle of an MS attack.  I was admitting to myself that my life and body were no longer the same and that I now needed help sometimes to live comfortably and it was OK to ask for it.  I was admitting that any job I worked needed to allow me to do this.

MS Beatles resized 600

2.  It is OK for me to weigh my value against the value of my job and only accept what is really worth it


When I say “my value” I mean it in a few terms.  I mean the value of my health .  I broke a sweat every single day at my job with the clothing store.  I lapped the large store at least 4 times a shift and carried merchandise around to restock not to mention how surprisingly tiring the standing for hours was.  I had left the juice bar in hopes of a less physical job and this was not it.  In these terms the value of this job was not worth the physical toll it was taking on my body.

I also mean the value of my experience.  I realize I state this at risk of sounding conceited but I have to be honest.  I was young but I had a lot of work experience in several different fields and managed to gain a team lead position of some sort at almost all my jobs.  People have accused me of many things but no one has ever accused me of not being a hard worker.  I was both an intelligent and diligent worker and received very little recognition or personal gratification for it.  I just could not make the value of this job worth my time, energy, or health anymore.  I needed to get out of this situation and find a better one fast.

MS Hard Work

I do not want anyone to think I am devaluing any particular work force in any way.  A job is a job and a blessing always and anyone dedicated to doing well at their work deserves recognition.  This particular job was just not for me personally though.  It had been a rough first year of diagnosis with many rounds of steroids and new hard to manage symptoms.  Things were settling down now and getting back to my new normal but I had to face the fact that another attack was always looming.  Going from 100% to -6% was possible at any time.  While I was doing my best to manage my disease and prolong going into a relapse, the truth is that MS is very unpredictable and the worst is always possible.  Facing this truth also means having to face the reality of my situation and how I can live through it the best.  I had to think about what line of work would be best for me.  I gave my two weeks notice and turned back to my stashed cash for a while.

Part of living the best life you can with Multiple Sclerosis is being realistic.  Be realistic about the assistance you need and don’t be afraid to ask for it.  Chances are you will be pleasantly surprised and get through life a lot easier.  Be realistic about who you are, what you can handle, and what you are willing to do.  Once I was realistic about all of these things and how they relate to me in the work force I was able to seek a job I knew I could handle. 

I am now working a job I adore and definitely intend to make into a career but it took me making some important realizations to get to this point

Stay tuned for more on what I’ve learned about myself and my MS on the job…


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