Thoughts on Disclosures . . .
A few years back, I started a new job on a temporary basis and impressed upper management enough to offer me a permanent position within their organization. Hesitation followed, as I contemplated my recent type 2 diabetes diagnosis along with mental health conditions which had previously impacted work performance.
Before I could accept, I needed to know that the new employer would be flexible with me fitting in doctor appointments and blood work into the work schedule. They needed to know that because I lived with multiple chronic conditions, that “real people sick” would often lead to missed days, as even those colds passed around the office hit me harder than healthier co-workers. After having the conversation, I felt comfortable that these accommodations would be made, even as I did not specifically name which chronic conditions were involved.
Eventually, all the names of these chronic conditions did come to light with supervisors and co-workers. Somewhat embarrassing at first to explain why I was sick so often when I started metformin or when I experienced a panic attack at work, though I never felt judged solely in the light of chronic illness. What those supervisors and co-workers later explained was that although I missed work and perhaps needed to step away from my desk more often than others, I made up for it in spades when I was in the office, focused and determined. So when I started being offered opportunities to travel to do social media consulting related to diabetes advocacy, I received my manager’s full support.
Fast forward to the job I took nearly a year ago. Life turned upside down a few months prior, and I needed to provide for myself. Because of that, I felt like I could not disclose any of the chronic conditions before I proved myself. Because of that, I moved behind the scenes in the diabetes online community and took on a role as moderator at the private Chronic Babe forums.
Hypothyroidism and mental health issues have come up in conversations with female co-workers, though I tend to gloss over them. “That year before being diagnosed with the thyroid issue sucked – I slept all the time, lost a bunch of hair, and was cold all the time – but it has been stable ever since I started being treated for it”. Just a simple “I see a therapist regularly” regarding the mental health issues.
It has been almost a year and type 2 diabetes is still a secret I keep close, despite proving myself with a raise at the six-month evaluation mark.
Let me be clear. If I took another oral medication more prone to induce hypoglycemia under the right conditions or was on insulin, it would be a different story. Safety and well-being would be the priority, not my pride.
That pride thing… Part of it is because I really do not want to encounter the food police. I hear co-workers dissect “The Biggest Loser” and the comments I hear make me cringe. Part of it is that it has been a rough year, and I have not always treated my body well, and I do not want to encounter any judging of the condition. Two co-workers have loved ones with type 1 diabetes, and not knowing their attitudes towards type 2 diabetes makes me apprehensive about disclosing.
Sometimes I do feel like a coward. I used to be able to be proud of diabetes advocacy efforts, with awesome support from those around me at work. The question is, though, do I miss the workplace support, or do I miss the level of diabetes advocacy I used to do? Would I be more willing to disclose if I stepped up my efforts again? Time will tell.
Thank you so much for sharing this, Rachel.
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