A bit of advance warning, this one’s going to be a bit on the long side. It’s important to me though so I’m not apologising for this fact.
I made a decision a while ago to stop talking about my Hypermobility Syndrome (HMS from here on in) on this blog, and hid all the posts I’d made about it behind a password. This was a decision made entirely through fear, and one I’ve come to realise was entirely wrong.
Why did I make it? I’ve been applying for full time jobs for quite a while now, and as anyone doing the same knows, you’re bombarded by a constant message that anything you put online may be seen by a prospective employer and influence their decision about you. I thought that having anything on my blog talking about the difficulties I face as a result of my HMS would make any prospective employer reject me before I even got through the door for an interview.
I’ve changed my mind about this now, hence this post. The thing is, whether or not I blog or tweet about being a bendy (one of the adopted terms for anyone with one of the hypermobility syndromes) I still am one. Whether or not I talk about it I will still have days where everything hurts (there are no days where nothing hurts) and will still have days when I have obvious strapping or need to use my stick.
My stick. He’s a thing all of its own. I have a walking stick, his name is Eames*. Here he is:
I bought him after a trip to Portmeirion showed that sometimes I need a bit of assistance getting round places, and that without that assistance I’m putting myself at risk of injury and forcing the people around me to share the stress of this risk. Since buying him I’ve found he’s really helpful – the instability of my joints means each step I take is a little more effortful than each step a non bendy person takes. Over a day out this is quite a bit of extra effort, if I use the stick then this extra effort is reduced and I can, within reason, keep up (and significantly reduce my risk of falls).
After buying Eames I used him most of the times I should. But not always, and in recent times not at all. This too has been driven by fear – fear of judgement, and in some cases fear that a prospective employer might see and again decide against employing me. See how much this fear has taken a hold? That I would actively not use something that makes my life better for fear it might stop someone employing me?
The penny dropping moment came during my recent fixed term employment in a HR department. As I’ve already mentioned, nothing I do will change the fact I have HMS – it’s a chronic, lifelong condition. I need to work somewhere that will accept I have HMS and will give me the necessary support (though this pretty much amounts to a comfy chair and workstation with things at the right heights – same as everyone would need), the types of employers I’m imagining who wouldn’t employ me because of the condition (and yes I know they can’t outwardly say it’s because of this) wouldn’t support me long term anyway and wouldn’t be the right fit for me.
Fundamentally I know how to manage myself. Regardless of what is hurting on any given day I know my personal work arounds so I can still achieve what I need to achieve. I’m not going to be applying for jobs that would be beyond my physical capabilities (there was a great sounding job I found that specified it involved carrying boxes up and down a spiral staircase so I sensibly didn’t apply) so the truth of the matter is that there’s no reason my HMS should be a barrier to anyone employing me.
I actually think that my HMS has given me skills that I’ll use in the workplace. I’ve become increasingly creative with my problem solving (I’ve had a post about how I bake despite having bendy hands written in draft form form for ages). I’ve also developed my information finding and evaluating skills – there’s a whole heap of help and support out there online but finding it amongst the less helpful stuff is a challenge.
I saw this picture on Hannah Ensor’s blog and it really spoke to me (the fact it suggests I’m a penguin is a happy coincidence)
No matter how much I try to avoid mentioning I’m a bendy, I am and always will be. I’m stopping wasting time and energy worrying about this – I’ve got far better ways to use both!
* Eames is of course named after the character in Inception. One of my favourite films, and the part played by one of my favourite actors. When choosing a name (I always name things after characters or real life people) I wanted someone stable and supportive, and entirely illogical the patterning made me think of Tom Hardy’s tattoos – something we have no idea whether Eames shared or not!