I joined Enterprise in the same way that so many other have done, as a graduate. It was actually my fiancé who mentioned I should apply – he works for a large car manufacturer, and had dealt with Enterprise in his current role and thought it was a good company to work for.
I’ve always been someone who talks about my health issues, and when I disclosed my illness at the beginning of the application process, Enterprise went out of their way to accommodate my needs. In fact, my first manager (who also did my final interview) went out of his way to reassure me that Enterprise would be as flexible as possible and accommodate my (dis)abilities.
I feel it’s important for my employers to know my situation and I can honestly say that of all the companies I’ve worked for, who are all well known, global companies, Enterprise has understood and facilitated my needs the best. I have never once felt judged for the things I can’t do and have always felt valued by my managers.
As a chronically ill person with an invisible illness I often get questioned when I say I’m too tired or sick to do something. People say “you don’t look sick” and sometimes that’s true. Over the years I’ve become pretty good at hiding the tiredness with makeup and pushing through pain and fatigue levels that would leave the average, healthy person bedbound.
Not all illnesses or disabilities are visible. I have fibromyalgia, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects my nervous system. You cannot see it from the outside, unless my pain levels are high and I come out in a raised, red rash. In short, my brain reads every nerve signal generated, as pain. This is turn produces an automatic reaction in my muscles and joints that make that pain real.
On top of this I get brain fog, where my brain is so overwhelmed by pain that it shuts down and I can’t think straight; extreme fatigue as my brain can’t reach REM sleep; a weakened immune system that’s susceptible to every virus going as well as burning muscles like I’ve run a marathon. Imagine the worst flu you’ve ever had, magnify it by 10, add the weight of three soaking wet, wool blankets and think about living like that every day for the last 15 years and you’ll be somewhere close. Unfortunately there is no cure, and scientists and doctors don’t even really know how to treat it, so any medication available is usually something to treat the symptoms and not the root cause.
The spoon theory was thought up by Christine Miserandino, who used it as a way to explain her limitations to a friend who knew she had lupus (another chronic autoimmune disease) but didn’t understand why she sometimes had to cancel arrangements.
They were at a restaurant and she grabbed a handful of about 15 spoons from the table and started to explain. A ‘normal’, healthy person has unlimited spoons. Someone with a chronic illness does not. Each everyday task requires a certain amount of spoons. For example, getting up is 1 spoon, a shower (something a normal healthy person can enjoy but saps the energy of the chronically ill) requires 2 spoons. Getting dressed is another spoon gone and that’s all before you even step out the door. You can ‘borrow’ spoons from the next day if you need to, but that will leave you with less spoons available tomorrow – not a good situation.
So, say on a good day you have 15 spoons and every small task you undertake requires 1 spoon, by the time you get to lunch time you’ve probably ran out. On a bad day when you are in spoon deficit even getting out of bed may prove next to impossible.
I’ve been ill for almost half my life and I’ve become pretty adept at knowing what I can and can’t do. If I have a big event I try and save extra spoons in the run up. If I borrow spoons to achieve this I know to factor in rest time. I have to pace myself and know my limitations. Sometimes I throw caution to the wind to really enjoy a day but I know in a few days’ time I will be paying the price!
Working for Enterprise, especially in my first role in a branch, was difficult. But both my branch and area manager supported me when I needed it. They knew I had some physical limitations, but they also understood that there were other tasks I excelled at.
At the start of the day, if my pain levels were high I would mainly be office-based, and if I was having a good day I would do a bit of everything. My manager knew that when I was capable I would pitch in with anything I could – and that understanding is very important. My current role is a lot less physically demanding and more mentally challenging – which I absolutely love! I’ve learnt to adapt my routine around my new role and I’m really enjoying it.
I always made a point to explain to my immediate managers and usually the other staff I work with about my situation, so they knew I wasn’t just being “lazy”, as I’ve had issues with this in the past. The problem with “invisible” conditions is exactly that – so a culture of trust is absolutely essential for people with invisible disabilities such as mine, and that is exactly what I found at Enterprise.
I’m so proud to be part of such a diverse and understanding company who help and support me in any way they can.
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