Please welcome a lovely guest poster, Bryan, who’s writing about how IBS has affected his working life. More guest posts welcome – just let me know what you’d like to write about by leaving a comment on this entry. Thanks!
GUEST POST: I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go! by Bryan White
I have always been a person who is interested in technology. As a teenager I bought an Atari 400 computer (circa 1979) and had it apart the next day for modifications. This lead me to a college degree in electronics and a fantastic career in the telecommunications industry. I worked on some amazing projects including the first cell phone technology, fiber optics and internet technology. Much of my time was spent on the road working for various customers and until my mid 30’s I enjoyed excellent health.
I can’t explain what happened or the exact causes such as stress or burnout, but things changed for me. I had a series of health problems over a period of eight years that left me with chronic pain, fybromyalgia and IBS. It became impossible to work on the road any more. The management and union which I had seen protect and help other workers with drug and alcohol problems, physical handicaps and other obvious health problems seemed to not understand what I was going through.
There is nothing more demeaning than to sit in a meeting and explain that your absences were the result of being afraid to drive anywhere because of diarrhea and cramps and the availability of washroom facilities. I could not convince them that an inside job with flexible work hours would allow me to continue my very productive career.
I ended up leaving and joining a small firm as an IT Administrator at a much lower salary (40% of previous salary). I don’t hold anything against my former employer or the national union that let me down but can’t understand why disorders such as IBS and fybromyalgia are so misunderstood.
Things improved for me in the new situation. It is a slower-paced environment with less stress and a management that is understanding of health problems. I can tell you that the struggle still continues day to day to manage my rogue intestinal system and aches and pains. The mornings are the worst. The chronic pain in my back is bad enough but throw in a morning of gut-wrenching cramps and diarrhea and it makes for a very unproductive day. I have managed to keep working and sometimes wonder when my welcome will be worn out.
I thought things were going well until one morning last year when a worse than usual night led to intense pains in my chest and a shortness of breath. There was something very wrong and I ended up in emergency with a heart attack. Honestly, I thought it was all over then and there.
After two weeks and a lot of awful food I was sent home 30 pounds lighter with a whole list of useless recommendations for a healthy life. What they don’t prepare you for is the mental battle of getting your life back together .
After a lengthy recovery I actually feel better than I have in over a decade. I still have bouts of IBS that knock me down for hours or days without any warning, and I am frequently late or need to leave early from work because of my groaning guts. It’s interesting how easy it is to explain a heart attack and get some understanding compared to IBS .
I applaud anyone struggling with IBS and trying to hold down a job. Dealing with unsympathetic workplace policies and the ‘people are replaceable’ attitudes present in this recession are too much to handle.