Thoughts on Disclosures . . .

On March 27, 2012 by Karen Graffeo

This month I am pleased to share a Blog Carnival post by Advisory Board Member Rachel Baumgartel, who blogs at Tales of Rachel and tweets at @RachelT2D.

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.

To find out  more about this month’s blog carnival and how you can participate, check out the March Blog Carnival post!

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