Generally seeing a person in a wheelchair, wearing a hearing aid, or carrying a white cane tells us they may be disabled, but what about invisible disabilities that make daily living a bit more difficult for many people worldwide? An astonishing 96 per cent of people with chronic medical conditions live with an illness that you can’t see – illnesses like Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue, mental illnesses, Diabetes (and many more) are all considered invisible illnesses.
I’ve suffered from a chronic invisible illness since the age of 14. I found the situation isolating and scary, but it was something I had to adapt to very quickly. Through school and university I suffered many symptoms such as chronic fatigue, migraines, and extreme weight loss. I didn’t reach out to anyone during my studies, and felt this impacted my grades and social life.
I joined Enterprise Rent-A-Car in 2013 and even after adjusting to the working environment, I still seemed to struggle with the symptoms of my illness. However, I was enjoying my new career too much to let anything get in the way of my success, so decided it was time to talk to someone. As a Graduate Management Trainee I reached out to my branch manager who was sympathetic, and understood the seriousness of the condition. She allowed me to stay in the branch on my really bad days, and was very flexible with my regular appointments with the doctor or at the hospital.
I now work in the Talent Acquisition team, and liaise closely with the HR department because I understand how important it is that people with invisible illnesses confide in those people who are in a position to help. Without speaking up, you’re just suffering in silence.
Here are my top tips for anyone coping with an invisible illness at work:
Educate your management team, HR department and any immediate colleagues who may need to know why you require time off at short notice for hospital appointments, or how the symptoms of your illness may affect you and those around you. You can find a lot of information online to pass to your employer to help them understand the condition and – most importantly – how it affects you as an individual and how your symptoms may affect you at work.
Ask for help
At Enterprise, we pride ourselves on diversity and inclusion. We will make reasonable adjustments for any employee to ensure that they’re able to do their job effectively. If you feel you need adjustments to take your illness or symptoms into account, then talk to your manager or HR department.
Take care of yourself on the job
Make sure you’re taking the breaks that you should be – everyone wants to do their best, but don’t run yourself into the ground! Improve your concentration by having a change of scenery and taking a break from your desk for five minutes if that’s what you need. And be sure to take any prescribed medication and to eat healthily.
Having an invisible illness can put you in an extremely stressful, lonely and isolated position but at Enterprise, we’re here to help, so don’t let your circumstances stop you from applying today. You’ll find we’ve got lots of experience in helping our people make the very best of the opportunities on offer; as well as finding the best in themselves.