My manager has a strict policy against working from home. We also have one restroom on our floor with only three stalls that about 15 women have to share. This makes for some embarrassing situations. When my colitis is active, I cannot help it, though. I’ve read blogs and heard the advice, “Just be honest with your coworkers.” Frankly, they are not easy people to talk to. It is the most embarrassing thing in the world to hear people whisper and snicker while I’m in the stall for the umpteenth time in a day. My manager says she understands, but the sighs and eye rolls and disappointed looks whenever I have to leave early or call in sick make me feel even worse. It’s like they all think I’m faking, so I push myself to go to work even when I can barely stand. I don’t want sympathy or pity, but it’s like people avoid me because they think I’m putting on a show. When I need to stay home, I sometimes go to the ER or urgent care clinic just so I can get a doctor’s note and won’t be fired. When I feel well, I really enjoy my job and do it well. If I could just do it at home and take breaks when I need, it would be so much easier. Any advice on how I can convince my manager to let me work from home?
I’m so sorry to hear that you’re in this situation but respect the proactivity you’ve shown so far. Coworkers should be a source of support, not stress. When you have an invisible condition like colitis, folks can be cruel and belittling, but it’s usually due to a lack of understanding. This sounds like a problem for your Human Resources department; they can be your best advocate in situations like this, acting as educators and mediators. With their help, your coworkers can come to realize you certainly aren’t “faking,” that in fact you have a serious condition. Talk with HR. They may even be able to intervene on your behalf about working from home. While this situation is being resolved, engage in deliberate self-care to heal yourself physically and emotionally. Remember, your condition is something you have, not something you are. It does NOT define your worth! To manage your stress, a good evidence-based technique is progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with your feet and moving upward, clench each muscle group for 10 seconds, then release the tension for 20 seconds. Repeat. Do for all muscle groups. Focus your mind on the feelings of tension and relaxation. With practice, you can use this technique effectively in a very short amount of time to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, general anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure. Living with a chronic GI condition is challenging, but I know that you can thrive even in the face of these circumstances and get to a place of peace and control. My best to you!
– Susan S.
Ph.D., Lifework Coach