Living with chronic illnesses for 30 years has taught me how critical work can be to health and well being. That's why I am committed to giving people who live with chronic illness the tools they need to be employed.
Recently, my daughter, Lucy, a legislative aide to a New York City Council Member, contacted another Council member's legislative counsel, Q. When Lucy didn't hear back after a few days, she contacted another member of his office. Not long after, Lucy got an email from Q explaining why he had been unavailable. He had been on a short sick leave because of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Would you tell a colleague, whom you don't know well, that you were unavailable because of a chronic illness? I'll bet not. Maybe you're even thinking: "Are you nuts? Why not just sign me up for unemployment?"
Q didn't know that Lucy's mom lives with MS, blogs about chronic illness and is a chronic illness career coach. So I can only assume that he isn't worried about telling people. I haven't spoken with him but I have a hunch that he feels secure that acknowledging that he has MS won't jeopardize what people think of him. Or maybe he feels that even if it does, it's not worth hiding it.
Also in that conversation -- in which he shared his story with illness and Lucy shared that her Mom lives with the disease -- he asked Lucy to sign up to walk in the New York City Walk for MS with him. And she agreed. This is the first time that Lucy has raised $ for MS (she's focused on other equally important issues, notes her proud mom).
My point? Not only did Q demonstrate that you can choose not to hide that you live with a chronic illness -- but when you don't, there might be other unintended, positive consequences. He recruited another fundraiser!
FYI: I'm not ADVOCATING random disclosure. Plan first. Check out my booklet Are You Talking? on my website first for some good ideas.
Building on her experience living with chronic illnesses, including multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis, Rosalind Joffe founded the career coaching practice, cicoach.com. Dedicated to helping others with chronic illness develop the skills they need to succeed in their careers, Rosalind firmly believes that living with chronic illness does not preclude living a full and successful life.