Saturday, 9 April 2011

My work life story #fitforwork

This post is part of The Broken of Britain's #fitforwork campaign.

I'm renowned among my friends for the variety of jobs(/careers?) I've had. Part, though not all, of that has been because of my health - having to give up on jobs I was doing and find something else I'm able to do.

As a child I was as healthy as most kids, apart from a succession of severe ENT infections. When I was 15 I developed major epilepsy (grand mal fits). Tests didn't show any cause, but fortunately it could be controlled by medication. The first medication turned me into a zombie, and the second would subsequently turn out to have made me infertile, but yeah, whatever.

In my final year of university, when I'd be aged about 21 or 22, I became clinically depressed for the first time. The Student Health Centre were sympathetic, but offered no treatment. They suggested I should speak to my professor, who looked at me like I'd suddenly sprouted an extra limb or a third eye or something! He clearly had no idea how to deal with this situation.

So, finally into the world of work, and already with a few long-term illlnesses hanging round my neck like albatrosses. I first worked in retailing, and was unfortunate enough to suffer bullying from my immediate manager (a complicated situation, to do with his partner running the store that was my immediate competitor in the company). The stress obviously didn't help my health status, and I ended up with irritable bowel syndrome to add to the rest. Finally, I got made redundant from that job when the shop was closed down.

After a few months of unemployment I was taken on by the civil service. I discovered that lightning can strike in the same place twice, as again I was a victim of bullying by my boss. Looking back with hindsight, I can see that he was taking out his own insecurities on me - but that didn't help me at the time. In fact, I subsequently discovered that his bullying was well known by head office, but it was "easier" to leave him where he was than do something about it.

It was as a result of this bullying that I finally had a complete nervous breakdown, and was discovered crying in my office by a colleague. I had been sitting all morning with 6 files, trying to decide which to deal with first, and completely unable to. After I had been off sick for over a year with anxiety and depression, I was offered ill health retirement.

So. That was me, aged 37. A pensioner. And I didn't want to be, you know? I mean, the money's welcome and all, I don't refuse it, but I'd far rather be doing something. So I started trying to make a bit of money out of what had previously been a hobby - teaching first aid. I taught round various schools, churches, synagogues, PTAs, and so on.

After a couple of years, I saw a job advertised by a charity for a part-time training officer - teaching first aid and AED (defibrillation - you know, the electric shock machine for the heart?) and I got that. I'd done that for 18 months when suddenly I started passing out all over the place. I even got carted off to A&E once, when I did it 200 miles from home. And even when I was actually conscious, I was exhausted...and bits of me really, really hurt...and I had spasms in my muscles...and I was weeing all the time...and and and...

It took two years, but finally I got a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. I now don't get out much, because of fatigue. I use a wheelchair when my walking's bad or I have more than a few steps to go. I still don't want to be sitting around. What I'd like to be is a writer. Anyone want a semi-comatose, housebound, ouchie, permanently on the loo writer? Goawn!

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