Why I'm so grateful to be my own boss with IBD

Workplace dilemmas are common for those of us with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Whether it's trying to explain the complications of our illness, negotiate sick pay or trying to explain our frequent toilet breaks. When I was first diagnosed with IBD, I worked as a teacher and it's only been in the last year or so that I made the switch to being self-employed. However, now I'm officially my own boss. I can't believe I didn't do it years ago. It's one of the best decisions I've ever made in relation to my illness.

I can work with my body

Since making the switch, I finally feel as if I'm working with my body, rather than against it. Gone is the guilt of sick days. I can easily make the time up at my own pace and make myself rest. This is especially important with those 'in-between type days' when you know you could do with some downtime but aren't sick enough to feel you can justify taking the day-off. Sometimes this just takes the form of being flexible and having an extra hour in bed. But it also means I'm free to make a doctors appointment, go to the pharmacy, or even stock up on soup without needing anyone's permission.

I no longer need to explain myself

It can be so hard to explain all the different aspects of IBD to an employer so being self-employed means I get to by-pass the office politics. No awkwardness when offered a plateful of food I can't eat. No 'erm' moments when I have to explain I can't commit to something months ahead without consulting my medical team. No grimacing my teeth as I politely ask the person who has a contagious illness to try to avoid coughing profusely all over my immune-suppressed self (and take the day off for god sakes!) so I could perhaps not get the flu or norovirus on top of my IBD.

I can recognize my achievements

All of the above can sometimes mean those of us with IBD don't focus on our achievements in the workplace. When we're well, we're desperate to prove ourselves. And when we're sick, we're incredibly apologetic. But actually, taken all of that away means I can recognize my hard work and achievements outside of my illness.

No commutes

Is there anything more stressful for us than a commute? Whether it's needing to pull over to find the nearest toilet or wishing you could just find a seat on the packed train. Toilet facilities are lacking and it stresses out our body. Having an invisible illness means we might not be given the adaptations we need. I work from home so my commute involves nipping down the stairs. This is my dream commute (and I'm the only one queuing for the toilet too!)

But what about the drawbacks?

I know not everyone would suit self-employed life. For one, permanent employment provides practicalities: sick pay, guaranteed wage, holidays, for those reading in the US, medical care. Because of this, self-employment is not to be undertaken lightly and it's always best to do it if you have a 'buffer'. Be it some savings or perhaps a partner who could support you.

I'm so grateful being self-employed has helped me manage my illness. And if you do have a support network and means in place, I'd so encourage you to do the same!

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