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Series | How my ulcerative colitis impacted my career

This is part of a series about how my ulcerative colitis impacted different parts of my life. This is not my usual type of post. There are no tips, learnings, or useful bits of IBD information.

These are simply the raw and honest thoughts that I have when I’m feeling a bit annoyed with my life. Times when the fatigue gets too much, I’m stuck indoors, or I’m laid awake at night. I’m sharing this with you simply because I want you to know that you are not alone.

Would my life be better without ulcerative colitis?

I can’t help but wonder what my life might have been like if I didn’t have ulcerative colitis. I think about all of the things that would have been different, and then I wonder how much different, or better my life would be now.

I was diagnosed and had surgery straight away. I had an ileostomy, and the plan was to ultimately have a j-pouch.

The impact of fatigue on work and my career

I had to change my hours at work because the fatigue wouldn’t let me work full time anymore. I didn’t like my job. It was only ever supposed to be a temporary way to bring in money while I figured out what my next steps were going to be.

I felt like I was stuck there, because how could I look for something else when I knew I had two more surgeries on the way. Because I had been so unwell, it took a year to be healthy enough to have my j-pouch built. Then, because of a cock-up at the hospital, it was another year before it was connected up.

Two years of my career ideas had been lost, and the money I had earned because I was only part-time, had meant I hadn’t had much of a social life either. That annoys me.

Fatigue did not improve after surgery

The j-pouch didn’t cure my fatigue like I’d expected it to, so trying to look for a new job was still really difficult because all of my energy had gone by the time I finished work. I knew I couldn’t go on to further education because I needed to pay the bills, and there was no way that I could study AND work.

The jobs I was interested in wanted people with qualifications and/or experience, and because my qualifications were now a few years old and I hadn’t used the skills in an actual role, I seemed to be unemployable. I still felt completely stuck.

Job search limitations because of UC

It wasn’t until my place of work was making redundancies that I finally saw a way out. I applied for voluntary redundancy so that I could throw myself into job searching. The redundancy package would cover the bills for a good few months. The only option I could see moving forward was to apply for apprenticeships so that I could gain qualifications while I worked.

The only trouble with that was that the money was rubbish and I was too old to have my qualification fully funded by the government, which was one of the main reasons that companies took on apprentices in the first place. I went for multiple interviews and was rejected purely because of my age.

I finally found an apprenticeship within a marketing agency. I didn’t know if I was interested in marketing because I didn’t really know what it was! I knew I would be based in an office close to home, that there would be some admin type tasks involved and that I would be trained on the job and have a marketing qualification at the end of it.

Again, I was faced with working more hours than I really wanted and not earning a lot of money, but what choice did I have?

Finding others online with inflammatory bowel disease

I settled into a social media management role. I didn’t really use social media before that. So, when my j-pouch began to flare, I took to Twitter to find others to talk to with inflammatory bowel disease.

When I was frustrated about life with an INVISIBLE illness and the comments I’d had about “not looking sick”, I took that frustration to Facebook in the form of an awareness post. 1.5K shares later, I realized that I might actually be able to do some good.

The time spent blogging and on social media in the IBD community ultimately led to me being able to make it my job, so not ALL that’s been impacted has been bad.

How would my job and my life be different without UC?

When I look back, it really does look like everything happened for a reason, because I am really happy with my work right now. That said, I am happy with my job because I can now freelance, manage my own time, and ensure I have enough time to rest.

If I’d never had UC, that wouldn’t even be a consideration! I only work with companies I want to work with and believe in, which are centered around IBD and ostomy support, which again, wouldn’t have been relevant if I’d not been on the journey I have.

I don’t know what job I would have chosen if I hadn’t had to pause my job search efforts because of my disease. I don’t know if it would have been better, or whether I would actually have saving right now. But, I can’t help but wonder...

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