Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, it’s off to work I go!

So today, I think I’ll discuss how to handle working a full time job with a disability such as lupus or arthritis. Despite the fatigue and horribly achy joints, it is in fact possible to do. I currently intern as a law clerk at the Attorney General’s Office – this means I sit in a chair for 8 hours a day. That 8 hours is sometimes broken up by a very long walking tour through a prison or court and always includes one nice walk to for lunch. If you’ve never worked a full time job before, it will wear you out. If you’re sick and have never done it before, brace yourself for the first few days.

What I have learned over the last two summers is the following:

1) Make sure you tell your bosses you need close parking. Even if they tell all the new employees they have to walk a mile from the parking lot, they should be able to accommodate you in some way. If they expect me to wear heels when my ankles and knees are acting I up, I expect not to have to arrive at my building in tears.

2) Get up and move around throughout the day. Taking a walk down the hall is a good stretch for your joints and muscles and keeps them from tightening when sitting too long. In reality, you should do this whether or not you have a disability. Studies show that sedentary life styles lead to earlier death so get up an move! I always warn my co-workers that I’ll be up and about several times a day so they don’t always wonder where I’m going or get surprised when I leave for seemingly no reason.  That’s just me though, really it’s none of their business so if you’re not comofortable say anything don’t!

3) Bring a pill box full of ibuprofen or any other anti-inflammatory/headache/body ache meds you need. Stop trying to impress people by being “strong.” If you’re hurting, you’re going to be miserable which in turn makes people not want to interact with you. Turn to a corner, grab you’re water bottle and take one, believe me, no one is watching and if they are they won’t think anything of it.

4) On that note, always bring a water bottle and stay hydrated. When I forget mine, I can’t function as well. My mouth and throat get dry constantly and it’s distracting. It not only takes away from the quality of the project I’m working on, but it makes me not want to be at work at all. It escalates and I start thinking about everything else bothering me. Maybe it’s just me, but keeping little things like this in check helps me a lot.

5) Carry a scarf to throw over your legs if you get cold along with a pair of gloves and a pair of socks. I suffer from Raynaud’s Phenomenon as do a lot of lupus patients. Yea sometimes I look a little goofy with my feet out of my heels and socks on but I’d rather people to walk when I need to. I tend to wear quirky things anyway so at least in my office, it’s not surprising to anyone. Gloves is another thing that might look weird but if it helps, it helps. People will get used to it and not even notice.

6) Some days, no matter what you do you simply feel like crap. That’s what happened to me today. My fatigue and joint pain are way up, my mouth is swollen and my head is hurting. I left early and said I’d be working from home tomorrow. In today’s day and age, telecommuting once in a while is a viable alternative to driving in to the office. Don’t be afraid to ask to leave early and don’t be afraid to ask to work from home if you’re project allows you to do so.

Yea, it’s hard when you have a disability like lupus. Hard doesn’t mean impossible and it is a completely realistic goal to be able to work 40 hours a week like everyone else. It is okay to ask for accommodations, just don’t be scared and make sure you make those you’re asking well aware that you can do the work just as well as anyone else! At the end of the day, you should be proud of yourself for try to control your own life instead of letting your condition control it.

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Published in: on July 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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