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Work- do you tell colleagues about ms

I’m starting work at a new job next week. Fatigue is a massive symptom of mine. I just wondered what does everybody do to keep their energy up during work? I’m thinking of taking plenty of water to keep myself hydrated and energy drinks & snacks/fruits to keep me going.

I’ve told my superiors at interview about my ms. Has everyone told other colleagues about your ms? I have a funny walk admittedly so I know people will ask. Do I tell the full story of my ms & how it affects me? (I know I will be the talk of the office. Also due to the stigma that is sometimes attached I dont want people thinking that I’m not up to the job.) Or do I simply say I have a nerve problem hence the walk (it is kind of true to say it is a nerve problem)? At least people wont be thinking I have other hidden symptoms

Suggestions are much appreciated.

Thanks

Gosh Omar, IS there a stigma attached to ms sometimes? Your superiors were told at interview level, so that information may well have filtered out by now anyway. The fact that you were successful and got the job points to the opposite in my eyes. :slight_smile:

Personally I don’t see the need to “tell the full story”. You can never stop people making their own assumptions, ie. as you say, thinking you’re not up to the job, or have other “hidden symptoms”. If you don’t feel it’s an issue and don’t want one made of it then don’t make any grand announcements but perhaps mention it in passing, (if you feel the need), during a coffee break or something. Who knows what your work colleagues may be diagnosed with?! Good luck and congrats on the new job. :slight_smile:

I think your instinct is spot on. My one suggestion would be to avoid ‘nerve problem’ - they’ll think you mean you’re neurotic. ‘Neurological problem’ is better (although I have to say that I have had people think that means neurotic as well! - so you are absolutely right to link it directly and clearly to your walking). A breezy statement, delivered in an ‘over and out’ tone that does not invite supplementary questions should do the trick. If anyone is ill-bred enough to enquire further (and there’s always one) I would suggest, ‘It’s a thing called Multiple Sclerosis - you might have heard of it - would anyone like a biscuit?’ That usually shuts them up.

And don’t worry about people thinking you won’t be up to the job. Clearing the air straight away like this should mean that you aren’t the talk of the office for long, and opens the way for you to show them what you can do without perpetual gossiping about what might be the matter with you.

Good luck in the new job.

Alison

Hi Omar,

I would play it by ear - certainly no rush to decide in the first week.

I haven’t worked for a while (it’s complicated - not strictly due to MS, although definitely a factor).

But I was diagnosed whilst still working. I told HR (didn’t have a lot of choice about that one, because my critical illness claim had to go through them), my immediate line manager, and my immediate colleagues - i.e. people who might be impacted by the fact I wasn’t getting through as much work, and who also might know me enough to wonder what was wrong. I thought the truth was better coming from me, as I didn’t want any rumours starting (She’s pregnant, she drinks, she’s got cancer, or whatever.)

I didn’t tell everyone I came into contact with over routine things. I told one customer I had a pretty good relationship with, because she was based quite far away, and I don’t drive. It was getting a bit of an ordeal to visit her on public transport.

I didn’t want her to think that anything had cooled between us, making me not want to visit, so I explained I was ill, and asked to deal by phone or video conference where possible. I didn’t tell another customer I’d never liked too well - I didn’t feel I owed it.

So see how it goes. If (when) you become friendly with people at work, you may find you want to tell them.

One word of warning, though - once the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put it back in.

So do not think you can tell just one or two people, swear them to secrecy, and it will never go any further.

I think at least one person here has told a colleague “in confidence”, and been hurt when that confidence was broken. But to be fair, that’s a risk you take. I don’t think there was any malice involved. I think the colleague, knowing the person had MS, became concerned when she was off sick, and alerted someone. So it was all from caring motives, but obviously not the way the person had wanted to handle news of their MS. Once the info is out there, you cannot always control who gets hold of it, or what they make of it.

Overall, I still think it’s better to be honest, and nip any rumours in the bud, but be choosy who to tell, and when. I don’t think you need to make a public announcement on Day 1. Once you’ve settled in, see who you feel comfortable about telling.

Tina

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I think you should always be honest and open.

if you don’t tell them about the MS they will think you’re work shy for no reason. My work have made changes to my working day to help me continue. I now have two extra breaks, am & pm, which helps to prevent fatigue. My colleagues are happy with the arrangement because of my honesty and the fact I work hard.

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Good afternoon

I never kept my MS a secret (from anyone). I would prefer people to ask me questions as opposed to people thinking that I was drunk, work shy, had a late alcohol fuelled night (tiredness).

My colleagues never saw it as an issue, I was still a reliable colleague who would get stuck in when needed( I was a prison officer). My fatigue would cause problems, I did struggle tokeep going` on a 12 hour shift, but my adrenaline kept me going. To some extent, we made a joke of some of the things that I did or could not do.

But due to other MS treats I made the decision to call it a day and retire. Not for my sake, but for my colleagues who I could not keep safe.

Each job has its own hurdles that you will have to overcome, it is up to you who you tell, but be comfortable with your decisions.

MS is a B***H of a condition to have, but don’t let it beat you and don’t ever let anyone else tell you that you are hopeless. Cos you are not!!!

Ang

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Hi Omar

I had a job when I was diagnosed and I told the bosses and colleagues. At the time it didn’t usually affect me much, but there were times when it was helpful for colleagues to know. For example, I was out with a colleague visiting clients and was finding walking distances quite difficult during a relapse. My lovely colleague paid for a black cab across London back to the office (about £18!) so I didn’t have to walk to the tube etc. Another time (after I changed jobs and again disclosed my MS) a slightly more distant colleague wanted me to walk up the 3 flights of stairs to his office rather than get the lift. Being able to say ‘no I can’t’ was invaluable.

Of course I haven’t worked in a few years so don’t know how the current economic climate has affected things. And it’s a personal decision whether to disclose or not. Maybe the best thing is to decide when you know your new workmates well enough. Will they support or undermine you if/when they know?

Best of luck with the new job. Tomorrow? I bet there’s a mixture of trepidation and excitement going through you right now!!

Sue

Thanks for the help guys.

I start on Wednesday (im starting 3 days a week then increasing to full time after a month). I haven’t worked for over a year so to say I am nervous is an understatement. Lol I keep thinking what if… What if I fall? What if I become too fatigued? What if I fall asleep at work?

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Omar,

Many congratulations on your new job. I think Tina hit the right balance. Once you are comfortable it is best to be up front but not to make a song and dance. I told different colleagues at different times but always answered honestly and clearly when someone asked. We had a contractor in the office and I had not told him about my condition, whilst talking to him one day I had a relapse and I saw a look of horror as I started slurring and trying to fall over. I felt sorry for scaring him. When I talked to him once I returned to work after the relapse he cracked me up by saying " I always thought you were a clumsy so and so"

You may get various reactions but I think giving the symptoms a name can reduce speculation and negative notions.

Congrats again and have a brilliant time. Mick

What if you love it? What if the work it really interesting and your colleagues are friendly? What if you don’t fall over at all? What if you get to the end of the day tired but happy? Not every ‘what if?’ is a bad one!

Every good wish for Wednesday.

Alison

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