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A Note To My Co-Workers About My Ostomy And Illness

I’ve been working a lot lately, which got me thinking about my work ethic compared to others. I know many people with chronic illness, myself included, who’ve said, “I feel like I have to work harder because I’m sick.” I’d like to say a few things on this topic because of an incident that happened at my job.

I am always straightforward about having Crohn’s and an ileostomy with all employers. That's my decision because if something happens I can keep my manager in the loop, which makes it easier (and understanding) for both of us. Since I’m prone to having sick days, the down side to disclosing this info is feeling like I need to work harder than my co-workers to prove my worth.

“Dedication. Hard worker. Dependable. Sarah will go any length to get her work done.”

That’s how my boss describes me and I’m proud of it. It’s worth all my efforts to receive compliments like this, because some days it’s so hard and mentally draining to get out of bed. There have been days I work so hard, that by the end of my shift I can barely walk. That’s just how it goes sometimes when you live with a chronic illness, but I wish “healthy” people would understand there are moments where I just need to take a break.

I had a co-worker ask me why I was sitting down and not doing my job during the last 10 minutes of my shift. I got offended because I went non-stop all day (almost 12 hours) and at that moment used up my 'last spoon for the day'. I just couldn’t keep going anymore. I needed a minute to rest.

On top of that, I hate using public bathrooms when it comes to emptying my ostomy bag. Being that I work in a restaurant, I just can’t find it in me to empty my bag in the restroom, so by the end of the day my bag is pretty full. It looks funny with me wearing tight pants, ha-ha, so I sometimes sit down to make it less noticeable.

To all the people working with someone who has an ostomy or chronic illness…

If you are aware that your co-worker has a medical condition (whether you know what it is or not), and you see them resting or “slacking” (as some would say)… PLEASE don’t go off, freak out, or anything, just give them that moment without judgement. Stress is a major trigger for a lot of us and your rude comment could be the straw that broke the camel's back.

Now back to the topic at hand. Working.

At the restaurant where I work everyone must look professional at all times, no matter if you’re in the front (servers) or back (chefs). I wear make-up, style my hair and do my best to smile, though it’s hard when I’m in pain. I still find a way to do my job, so I grit my teeth and push forward. I look just fine, but inside I’m not. That’s why having an ostomy or IBD is called known as an “invisible” illness.

Plus, every two weeks I take Humira which makes all my joints hurt and I feel extra fatigue, it’s really rough. I am learning that even though I will always go above and beyond at my job, I need to slow down and take my time when I start feeling bad because I don’t want to end up in the hospital. My health should always come first.

I struggle with self-care, it’s a slow learning process.

When I’m not sick, all I want to do is live, work and do all the things that don’t involve having an illness. I bought I shirt recently that read, “I am not bossy, I’m the boss.” I keep that mindset and so should you, but when you’re not feeling 100% it’s best to slow down and let your superiors know because they can help you.

Sarah Rae

“I am not bossy, I’m the boss.”

To all the people working with someone who has IBD that would like to understand how the disease makes everyday life different, check out The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino. Her blogsite, But You Don’t Look Sick, explains a lot.

This post originally appeared July 10, 2016 on Living Life IBD Style.