Just under three years ago, I left my teaching job.
I left for a variety of reasons. It wasn’t that I didn’t love teaching. I loved teaching. I enjoyed chatting with my students, working with them, and seeing them bloom and grow. I absolutely loved that aspect of that job.
What I didn’t love was the constant stress caused by what is an unhealthy system. There is a real problem within the teaching profession in England, and it is causing mass amounts of teachers to leave each year because of stress.
At the time, I was dealing with chronic pain and being on my feet and lugging books around all the time, as well as the stress, was making it worse. I also had had several bouts of illness, which I now know were gastroparesis flares.
I decided that it was a better move to complete a MSc in Psychology so that I could eventually train as an Educational Psychologist (if I did a PHd). It might require some hard work, but I would have more flexibility with my career long term, which I might need with my health.
So I did my MSc and I planned on working for a couple years after before I thought about doing a PHd, or further studies. Then, life happened and my stomach got much worse, and a year later these new migraines started.
I tried for a while to look for jobs. I was offered a position at one point, but realised that I just was not capable of working.
Surely if I can sit and type on the computer, I can work? Well… no. I can sit and type this out, yes, but what might take a healthy person a half hour to write, might take me an hour or more. I might have to take breaks because I’m being sick (yes… I throw up a lot. Do you really want me in the office taking constant sick breaks?), or because I can’t think of a word. I’m always losing words to my faulty brain.
I’ve also found that if I don’t lie down in the afternoon, my headaches get much worse. How many jobs allow you to lie down each afternoon?
It has been hard to accept that I can’t work.
I found an old blog post from an old blog that had a section that talked about how I always pictured myself working.
To go from having ambitious plans, and a personality that enjoys having a purpose and role, to not having that, took a while to accept. I try to have hobbies and I started to help moderate a Facebook group for other people with medical issues, as well as their Twitter account (Medical Musings with Friends and @Med_Musings). I can do these things at my own pace and it does help to make me feel as if I am doing something positive with my life. That helps!
Now, I’m not sure about where I’ll be long term. I am very, very hopeful that I will be able to return to work at some stage.
But there are barriers.
People with chronic pain, illness, or disability face significant barriers in finding work.
There might be physical barriers such as stairs, the advert only being advertised on certain job boards, etc. As well as barriers with things like attitudes (disabled people aren’t able to work as hard, it’s too hard to to adapt things for anyone with a disability, etc.).
So, it is often not that disabled people don’t want to work, but if they are able to work, there might still be too many barriers stopping them.
I have to accept that it is likely that I won’t have the exact career path that I dreamed of. I don’t know yet what will happen in the long run, but for now I will keep focusing on what I can do, and try to accept what I cannot.