Working with Arthritis: My Experience

As I’m writing this, I am working an unexpected shift at my job. Someone did not show up as scheduled so, as a person in management, I am here to fill in. There are some days, however, where this becomes a huge hassle.

Sometimes coming in for my scheduled shifts are already horribly difficult. Either my knees don’t want to handle an 8 hour shift of standing or my fingers won’t cooperate with my need to be on the computer during that time. Or, even worse, I cannot think well enough to feel like I’m properly doing my job.

Arthritis and other chronic conditions definitely make it difficult to get by. Forget about our high medical and prescription costs, and many people are still trying to work two jobs just to get by. For a few weeks, I worked three while going to school full time. Boy, am I glad that’s over. But even now, with my current job, there is some part of me afraid to set limits because of the possible repercussions… not that I think that I should be worried about them. But every person with a disability I believe has to think about that, even if it is only a subconscious thought.

There was a study recently that showed that people with disabilities worked harder than their ‘able-bodied’ counterparts. I think the above has a lot to do with it.

It is important for us to remember that rheumatoid arthritis can technically be considered a disability and, as such, should fall under the realm of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This revolutionary piece of legislation made it illegal for the workplace to discriminate against anyone with a disability. Among what constitutes as discrimination includes not being hired, being fired, or not being given the proper accommodations in order to complete their tasks.

I often try to stay strong and not use any sort of accommodations. In fact, this past school year was the first of three years it will take me to complete my Master’s degree and it was the first year I used disability services at all. But at work, I almost refuse to do so. I don’t want people to know that I am ‘weaker’ or ‘not normal’ and having a chair up at the desk seems to scream that to me. Even on days like today, where I am working more than a full scheduled shift, I try to avoid using this accommodation.

But today I am making my joints a promise.

From now on, when I need to, I am going to use accommodations. I am going to inform my bosses that I have limits to what I can do, that those limits have changed somewhat, and, that if they want me to work more hours, they are going to need to ask me if I can do it first instead of assuming that is what I will do. And, if my joints are hurting so badly that I can barely get out of bed, I’m not going to make myself come into work.

I am not going to worry about the repercussions.
And it feels good.
achieve clinical guest blogger kirstenGuest Blogger Bio
Name: Kirsten W.
Homebase: Madison, WI
Diagnosis: Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis



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