An Open Letter To Employers From The Chronically Ill

12/04/2017 16:57 BST | Updated 12/04/2017 16:57 BST

Dear Employers,

When I am emailing my jam-packed CV, filled with my impressive education, employment and volunteering history, I am confident that I'm the right candidate for the job. My hardworking nature that has been engraved into my personality means that I will give the job my very best, and I know that for this, I deserve it. So, why is it that when I'm invited to an interview with Occupational Health, I find myself terrified that it'll ruin my chances of getting my dream job? Why is it that I feel like I have to be quiet about a part of who I am, because it may make me seem less able of being successful in the workplace? Why is it that even when I'm successful in gaining the job, I find myself shifting uncomfortably when you comment that I should be the one to work late tonight, because I'm "young and fit as a fiddle"?

On the outside I appear young, fit and healthy, but turn me inside out and my body would tell a different story. I have Crohn's Colitis, a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease that causes symptoms including frequent bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain, joint pain, fever, abscesses and overwhelming fatigue. It is a chronic and invisible illness for which there is no cure. My appearance doesn't scream out that I am often dealing with pain and discomfort. There is no sign on my forehead stating that I am taking numerous steroid, chemotherapy and pain medications to help me to get out of bed each morning and function. Some days can be incredibly difficult, and I want nothing more than to cry because I didn't ask for this life. I have worked hard balancing education and part-time work for five years, in the hope that I would land myself my dream career and a comfortable wage. I never imagined that when this was within reach, I would have my health stripped away from me, along with my social life and my confidence. However, being diagnosed with a chronic illness at only 20 years old has also given me a new-found determination to fill this often-short life with as much happiness as possible. And to do that, I want to work. I still want the chance to fulfil my dream career.

There are approximately one in four people like me, also living life with a chronic, invisible illness or chronic pain. Some of them are too ill to work at all, and may have to rely on benefits, or the financial support of their loved ones. This very often comes with a side effect of guilt. They face disapproving looks when walking out of the job centre, or using a disabled facility, because they don't look disabled. Their worth is questioned, because of their employment status, and their perceived ability to contribute to society. The term disabled itself, suggests that they are not able. Many of these people, too, want to work, but your lack of understanding makes it impossible to be an employee and be chronically ill. What should we do, if we look too well to be on disability benefits, but we are not deemed able enough to succeed in the workplace? Employers, I will probably tell you all about my previous busy schedule full of experience and good grades. But please forgive me if I don't tell you that I am also chronically ill. I cannot help but question, if I did, would you still see me as the same person, perfectly able of success?

I can give you my determination to succeed, my hunger for learning, and my very best in every job that I do. All I ask for in return is your understanding that I can be chronically ill and chronically successful.


Anna Gaunt

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