Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Struggling Body is Killing my Job: What I'm doing to Change It

Why so little posting lately? I must admit, here is the short of it: I am tired. I am exhausted. I've been trying to work a forty hour work schedule. Trying. See, my mind is willing. I am going nuts from lack of challenge and mental stimuli. But my body, my aching, tired body, can not keep up. I have been trying to sleep lots, been eating healthy, taking supplements and my hormone medicine, and been trying to keep up with some sort of exercise to increase stamina. But my body keeps breaking down.

Last week, I caught a cold, but was able to completely recover in a day just by taking some rest time. Last night, I got sick to my stomach and had to leave work early today because I could not hold it in. The main frustration with this bouts of illness is they seem to completely arise from fatigue. My body becomes too tired to cope with the side effects of my disease and its defenses drop. I have been struggling to find a job that requires less lifting/standing, because the amount of exertion is what's keeping me from being a good employee. But this is the only job I have currently. I was so exhausted and frustrated I almost began to cry when speaking to my new boss today, trying to explain the situation. It was humiliating. I've been having trouble with getting there on time and this is because my schedule is routinely upturned from sudden intrusions of pain/nausea/dizziness/fatigue/etc.; it makes arriving on time slightly difficult. So, on top of this, I have to explain I have a crippling disease that's keeping me from doing my job.

This may sound a little more dejected than my standard posts. Generally, I spell out the optimism line and advise everyone to keep an upbeat attitude. The truth of this situation is it is not a great one. It is a kind of depressing situation to be put in. But fear not. Because the point of this post is not to try and pander to anyone and pick out the silver linings. Really, right now, the only good thing I've got going is that I am not unemployed.

Here is where the positive comes. Because rather than wallow in how dejected and frustrated I am, I am going to make a plan of escape. Not only from my current job that is clearly destroying my fragile body (okay, not fragile, but still--transitioning from full time student to full time employee has been crazy difficult), but from how endometriosis is ruining my job prospects. Rather than throw my hands up and mope, I am going to change my situation.

I am going to write out a list of things I can do now and things that I can work towards to be able to improve. Goals, ideas, new rules, etc.. Probably, some of these are too mundane or personal to put here. But I am happy to provide some examples.

  1. I am going to write an apology and a few ideas of how I am going to change my current tardiness, sign it, and give it to my boss. Its how I am going to communicate that I am serious about changing how endometriosis is intruding on my ability to function. In two weeks I have been tardy twice. It would not happen if I was not sick, but I need to stop it from happening anyway. 
  2. I am reducing my hours and going to form a plan to work up to forty hours a week. Maybe start around 25-30. I desperately need the higher income of 40 hours, but I would rather retain my health and work towards more hours. This way, I can have a more positive experience and be a better employee, as well as retain my health. 
  3. I am going to continue submitting a reasonable number of resumes/applications/cover letters for potential jobs. I have had a couple interviews but it has been a difficult process. However, I am just going to continue at a steady pace. The stress of flustered job searching does not help my goal, so I am just going to be patient. 
  4. I am applying for grants/subsidized loans so I can finish my degree. With only 14 credits left, it is best that I finish ASAP so I can put my bachelors on my resume. Even though these classes are mostly religion credits/GEs, employers do not care. They want that piece of paper. So I should give it to them. 
  5. I am going to pursue goals and follow through with self improvement outside of work/school. Things like making weekly menu plans, following a cleaning schedule with the house, learning Spanish, writing in my book--things outside of high pressure money needs. Because if everything of value is tied to my job, and I do not like it, well--I'm not going to be very happy, am I? So I need to do things outside of my job. 
Obviously this is not a fill out list that applies universally to everyone who reads this. For most, it may just be a mildly interesting story of my current situation. What I am trying to get across is this: although I am in a frustrating spot, I am doing my best to change it. And that is the only thing that is keeping me positive right now. 

If I was completely stuck in thought about where I am, I would be depressed. There are moments where I can only think about the negatives of what is going on and I become very dejected. But I've got my goals, my ideas, and I look forward to realizing them. So if you are in a situation with little bright spots, with insufficient silver linings, do not focus on them--focus on how you can change them. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Returning to the Workforce

This very moment, even as I type these words, I am in a fierce search for a decent job. Before endometriosis really hit me hard, I worked as a lab researcher and was on my way into a promising career in medical science. However, life has a way of screwing up plans, and, for 1 1/2 years, everything I wanted was put on hold. I needed to reduce stress and I was forced to work a medial job at a farmers market. School was too intense, so I had to take a year off. All my extra-curricular activities (as a research assistant or volunteering in schools and hospitals) ceased. To any objective observer, I became a slacker. Unfortunately, there is no check box in an application that says, "I was struck by debilitating symptoms of endometriosis and had to take a temporary vacation from pursuing my goals."

For me, personally, there really is no good way to put in your resume that you are not responsible for a gap in your work history. If I did put that endometriosis disrupted my life, then employers would be less likely to hire me. Many employers do not even know what endometriosis is or, even worse, think it is a highly exaggerated disease. Beyond that, many do not understand that it operates on a spectrum and affects every woman differently. Not only would I be setting myself up as an excuse maker (and thus, unreliable), but they would also wonder when I would be 'struck by illness' again. So, my endometriosis is a secret, hidden in my work history, only revealed by a serious downgrade in activity and career choices.

The question remaining then is how in the world do I recover from the damage endometriosis did to my job opportunities? How does anyone recover? Let's be honest, endometriosis is not cheap--many endo-friends of mine are seriously struggling to keep their heads above the floods of medical bills that come with it. And it makes keeping a good job very difficult; having to take 1-2 extra sick days a month can really build up animosity in a work environment. So it makes it imperative to have a good job but also makes having a good job really difficult. Oh goody.

Well, here is my advice. It's the advice I am currently following and that I hope will yield up some decent results. And, of course, I'll update as soon as anything comes through. If anyone would like to add further commentary or suggestions, feel free to add at the bottom or email me.

  1. Create an impeccable resume. One that employers will remember and respect. has a helpful resume guide that gives step-by-step instructions and advice on how to write this. Even if you already have a resume, you are always able to improve it. 
  2. Write a cover letter for every job. Even if they do not request one, even a short two-paragraph explanation for why you are applying for the job and why you are qualified can set you apart from other candidates. Additionally, it supports that any gaps were circumstantial and not due to 'laziness'. 
  3. Peruse multiple job boards. I've looked on sites from Craigslist to to and etc. these weeks. Every site has different opportunities and different methods of browsing. You are more likely to find a job that fits if you are willing to explore various sources. 
  4. Find ways to keep a good attitude. One of the hardest parts of job exploration is the constant rejection and being ignored. Or, even harder, when you receive a response and you instantly realize someone is trying to scam you. Look at it as a frustrating experience that gives you the chance to learn and grow. Frustration occurs when you are blocked from a desired goal. The tension experienced is released when you can finally obtain that goal. So keep working hard to obtain it, look forward to that extreme satisfaction and relief when you finally reach what you are working for. It's a great feeling. 
  5. Apply in person whenever possible. Online applications are easy and convenient and do not really prove sincere interest. Often, these online job searches give addresses/locations of the company you are applying to. I advise you to print up your cover letter and resume on some professional quality paper and drop it off yourself (preferably, not in sweatpants). 
  6. If you need more education to further your career but do not have the medical health to attend full time school, consider night classes or home study. I am finishing my remaining courses via independent study. It is a great way to attain your education without endometriosis forcing you to drop out or something. 
This pretty much sums up what I've got for now. I need to prove to prospective employers that I am not lazy or unmotivated. My resume suggests otherwise, but it's not true. So right now, my only job is to make these people see that I am determined and hard working. Endometriosis does sometimes make me unreliable (I cannot help when a bad episode/flare up strikes), but it has also made me strong, conscientious, capable, and more productive when I am healthy (to make up for lost time). If people do not recognize the good qualities in an individual who has suffered from illness, then it is simply may job to make those qualities evident. 

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About The BedRiddenHead

I want to be happy. And this site is about that chance. How to strive to thrive in the body I've got and maybe turn my experiences into something worthwhile.

This site aims to help educate and reach out to people all over that struggle with pain or illness. To try and make something helpful. I work as a medical research writer, my background is in neuropsychology and biology, and I want to share what I learn in a way that is easy to understand. I am not a doctor. I'm definitely not your doctor. I am just some lady who wants to make someone's (anyone's) life a little bit better. Whether you have endometriosis, a chronic injury, a struggling friend, or just want to learn something new, I hope to make a place that has what you are looking for.

Thank you for stopping by, I wish you strength in your health, struggles, and happiness.