Monday, October 26, 2009

Fibromyalgia and the Workplace

I came across a rather interesting article today while perusing the net.  It was an article about working with a chronic condition.  I was intrigued by what this writer had to say because I'm always willing to hear new tips and tricks.  It never hurts to listen to others because it just might work for you-- you know?

For those that have read my book The Fibro Hand, get ready to hear me repeat myself.  For those that haven't, I had to leave a career that I had for 18 years due to my Fibromyalgia.  My career was in retail management and I worked for a very old and well known company.  In fact, about 1 out of every 2 of you that read this blog probably purchased an appliance from this well known company.  I worked for Sears. 

Most of my career was in the Home Improvement and Home Appliance departments, although, I worked almost every other department in between for 12 years.  I liked my job because I really enjoyed helping people.  Some would even keep me smiling all day, and of course, some would not.  But the ones that treated me like a person, rather than a sales girl, always stood out to me.

When I left, I felt like I was letting them down.  I also felt like I was letting myself, my family, and the company down.  But I just didn't have the strength to give my 110% anymore.  This girl in this article, God bless her, has found a way to beat the system...

http://www.articlesnatch.com/Article/Employed-With-An-Invisible-Illness/795020

I'm glad she can find a way take a few winks at her computer.  That can truly help, but for me, that was not an option since I was always in the public eye.

So, for those of you that are not so lucky, I'll offer a few tips that worked for me.  I used to try and really get to know my boss by seeing what he really looked for in performance.  In other words, if he picked on the fact that the handbag department looked awfully messy, or my back walls and front end merchandise was picked through, I'd only focus on those areas and I'd leave the rest for another day. 

Now, me being in management helped out greatly, of course, because I could ask my associates for help.  But, even if you aren't in management, this little bit of advice may work.  Turn their constructive criticism into a positive spin on your day.  Work only on what they say needs to be done-- not what you know has to be done.  I'm sure that their list is shorter anyway-- they usually don't know the job as well as you do.

Ask a co-worker for help if you need to.  I used to ask a lot of people for help when I couldn't lift things due to my illness, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  I had to lift some pretty heavy things pre-Fibro, like washers, dryers, and air conditioners, but you never caught me trying to lift those things post- Fibro.  I had to be able to function and lifting things like that would have cost me my mobility-- not an option.

Now, I'm not saying this will work every time.  There were times that my boss would get moody with me and pull one of those, "Well it's not going to move itself." routines.  In those cases I'd move it while gently reminding him that I'd be incapacitated for the next day.  Whether or not that was the case, I still made it look like it was.  Yes, I used his guilt to my advantage, and no, I'm not ashamed to admit it.  Why?  Because if I didn't stick to my guns, I'd be faced with him thinking that I could move mountains anytime HE wanted me too and that's simply not possible.

I eventually had to leave, though.  The stress was getting too great for me.  I'd come home dazed and confused.  This was not an option since I had a little one at home (at the time), a Mom with Alzheimer's that I care for, and Grandparents (one with post-polio and one with Alzheimeir's) that I care for too.  Oh yeah, and did I mention the hubby?  Quitting, or how I like to put it, retiring, was hard at first, but one door closes, and there's always another that's wide open, waiting for you to walk through.

I'm content because I have two great jobs right now.  They are so great that I really can't call them jobs-- I love them too much.  I'm actually happier now, than I was way back when, in retail.  It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I'm my own boss now, I don't have to make a quota unless I want to, and I work the hours I can, not the ones that someone wants me to work.

Not everyone can say that-- I know.  It takes a special kind of person to be able to have enough tenacity to be self employed, but I think we Fibromites have that special gift because of all the obstacles we face.  I love to write, it's one of my greatest loves and I love to talk with and help people one on one.  I sell legal and identity theft protection service plans (my day job), and that suffices my latter passion.

I have Fibromyalgia to thank for allowing me to find my passions.  Loosing my career may have seemed like the end of the world, at first, but it wasn't... and it doesn't have to be for you either!  Find your own niche in the world and try it on for size, it just might make you feel fabulous!


Stay fabulous!
Love and friendship,

Kimberley
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