How My Health Changed My Work Life Priorities.
It's 2 months away to a 1 year since I was diagnosed with MS & what a drastic change it's made in my work life. Last year, around this time, I was getting ready to speak at 2 International Women's Day [IWD] events via work, while managing a foggy brain, undesirable bodily functions & pains throughout. [During this time, it wasn't clear it was MS yet; the doctors were still investigating why I was having all these symptoms & in a constant state of being ill] March came for IWD & I pushed through for both events, trying to be as 'healthy' & as 'present' as possible. Although I probably made a fool of myself at the first event. I had the worst foggiest brain that day combine with nerves, it was a recipe for utter disaster in front of a room full of over 100 strong, influential women, waiting to hear our insights. Not long after, when I found out I had MS in April 2021, it felt like a relief. I was somewhat excited to tell my workplace that we *finally* know what's going on with me, and I did.. However, later on in June, I found myself crying after a meeting with my supervisor & handed in my resignation that very day. I left my role from a NFP community housing organisation in Melbourne - HousingFirst Ltd, for a number of reasons; mainly due to their change of policy pertaining to only my role - I was the only person in that position. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in April 2021 & the 10 to 12 months prior & leading up to the confirmed diagnosis, I was quite ill due to the myriad of symptoms I was experiencing. Neither I or the doctors knew what was going on at the time, however, I still prioritised work & wherever I could, I worked extra time & did the extra favours to cover any time off taken for doctor's appointments & check-ups, where doctors certificates were provided where given. In the time leading up to the diagnosis, before I disclosed what was going on, I was verbally promised a role change, which meant career progression. I had mentioned to the Front End Services Acting Coordinator that I have learning difficulties & I may have dyscalculia (I was going through therapy for FV & DV & my psychologist had brought up that there's a high probability of me having dyscalculia) & a few weeks later on, I had stated my concerns regarding work; mainly due to the workload from one particular daily responsibility in the role I was in. It was starting to affect my mental health severely due to the lack of appropriate support required & needed for that daily task, however, decided to stay when I was verbally told that I would be moving into a different role in the future coming months, which also meant career progression. I had later found out that there were initially 3 people in my role, now compressed for one person to do, me. The last person before me resigned due to the bullying & the ill treatment as being a transgender person with mental health & due to the retraction of support needed for the role. At the same time of leading up to the diagnosis, I received notification that I was on the list for feet surgery in the next coming months for both feet at once due to feet deformities that was affecting my entire body. This surgery was a result from a referral from when I saw my GP back in early 2018, before I had started working at that organisation, which I had forgotten about until receiving the letter. When I further found out about the extent of my feet surgery & recovery needed, I sent an email to management, explaining the extent of my health situation, recovery required, upcoming appointments & requested for temporary adjustment in the workplace to accommodate my recovery after the surgery by requesting to work from home for a short period of a few months. (I had been working from home during covid restrictions just fine with no impact to service delivery & was working from home up until I resigned.) I verbally spoke to the Front End Services Acting Coordinator who was my supervisor, asking if it was ok for me to work from home one day a month when I recover from the feet surgery as I'd be able to get my MS treatments at home after 3 infusions at the hospital. I was verbally given the 'OK' to work from home 1 day a month for infusions as I had a doctor's certificate, requesting to allow me to WFH when needed for the immunosuppressive treatment I was about to start receiving. The CEO, GM & the Front End Services Acting Coordinator were all highly verbally supportive & ensured me that they will be able to work around with me during this difficult time. About 4 weeks after disclosing my diagnosis & sending the email of explaining my health situation & requesting for temporary adjustments, I opened my work inbox to an email sent to all staff, regarding a change in policy pertaining to only my role, stating that it was compulsory for only my role to be present in the office. About a week later, I was told that there would NOT be a role change by my supervisor, 'Don't know if & when it will happen' by the general manager. I resigned from the organisation as I didn't feel like I had any choice left, felt strung along, publicly embarrassed & it just felt very uncomfortable to still be there despite my efforts, loyalty & honesty all this time, resulting in a change in policy only to my role & the retraction of career progression despite verbal promises. Despite having been bullied, having a manager tell me the MS was psychosomatic, judged based upon what my partner earns, had staff say I won the best employee award only because the organisation wanted to be racially inclusive, been addressed as 'bitch' instead of my name multiple times by a Housing Officer as they thought it was funny & a Project Manager calling me a ‘psychopath’ because I always smiled & laughed; I couldn't help but feel absolutely gutted that my chance towards a career was blown off by health issues, enforced by the 'leadership' team, who thought that treating people this way was ok. It was only when I resigned & I was out of that environment, that I knew that this was a blessing in disguise. I may not have the ability to further speak at events to share my life experiences & insights & I may no longer have a 'white collar' career in the community sector, but I'm happier now than I have been. Choosing both my physical & mental health over a job & being able to do what jobs I want to do & can do on my own accord, where I'm welcomed without ableism, has never been more rewarding. I hope that people will find inspiration in my story; whether you're in a leadership position or otherwise; take the good & leave the bad behind. If you are being treated unfairly at work, I urge you to get some advocates behind you for support & stand up against it. If I knew the leverage I had *whilst* still working there, I would have fought this, but I'm just an immigrant that's still learning. :)