You Didn’t See Me Yesterday
Dear Someone Else’s Dad,
I have a chronic illness that flares up every now and then. I just started a new, high-energy job, and am wondering whether I should alert my boss sooner rather than later that potential flares could set me back a few days a year.
Not That Sick
Man did your question hit home with me! As a longtime Crohn’s disease patient and patient advocate I have been dealing with this issue for many years.
I recommend people be open to employers and close friends about underlying conditions, giving just enough basic information and not going into gruesome detail. I’ve found most employers are understanding, especially when people describe the course of a typical flare-up, and how they expect to manage being productive in spite of it. And in today’s hybrid work environment, we can always mention how the ability to work at home will make things easier for us on various days.
Today social media has given young people a platform to be more open about their chronic and mental health issues, but stigmas of being labeled “other than” still exist. Both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act provide protections at work.
Back when I was a young manager in my late twenties no one at work had a clue about my condition. I made it a point to let everyone know that I swam laps on my lunch hour every day and that I rehearsed community theater productions several evenings a week. Intense business travel was a given. I was invincible. It wasn’t until a few months into that job that I had a huge flare-up, and needed to be hospitalized. I remember the call to my boss, “Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you…”
Sixty percent of Americans suffer from some kind of chronic illness, and many of us often hear, “Funny, you don’t look sick,” or “You look like a picture of health.” I actually don’t mind when people say that to me because I like looking good. But sometimes I have to hold back from saying, “Oh yeah, well you didn’t see me yesterday.”
Be well, SED