What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s a question we’re often asked as we go through school. Every moment of our education, from age 4 to 18, is geared towards preparing us for the job we want to do for the rest of our lives. No one ever expects to ask themselves what they will be able to do when they grow up.
Working is hard. Working with psoriatic arthritis is even harder. Pre PSA I could plough through my day as a veterinary nurse and still have the energy to live when I came home at the end of the day. Post PSA diagnosis I’d wake up feeling as if I’d had no sleep and dreading the day ahead. I’m an extremely stubborn individual. I thought if I could just act like nothing was wrong I would be able to do my (physically demanding) job. Spoiler: I couldn’t. I ended up in hospital. It was only then I realised how psoriatic arthritis was going to affect my working life.
You might be sitting here reading this thinking I can’t do this. I can’t work. However, the truth is that you can’t do this right now. Don’t do what I did. Your psoriatic arthritis won’t disappear just because you ignore it, but you can take steps to make your workday a little easier.
Be honest. Unfortunately for me, the nature of my job wasn’t going to change. It would always be physical. Thankfully, I was in a position to take some time off and think about my future and what I would be able to do. I won’t lie, I felt like I’d failed at life. The least you expect to be able to do, as an adult, is get up out of bed every day and go to work. It upset me for a long time, and it certainly didn’t help with recovering from my hospital stay. As time went on, I realised that just because I couldn’t do that job didn’t mean I couldn’t do any job. I thought about going back into education, but eventually, I realised I had the skills and knowledge to start a business from home; a job that would let me set my own hours. That was two years ago, and I can say now that it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I realise that not everyone can do this, but don’t lose hope. If you have a good relationship with your employer, then arrange a meeting and tell them about your PSA and how it’s affecting you. You’d be surprised how understanding management can be. A friend of mine (who also suffers from a chronic illness) recently did this, and every effort was made to make her feel comfortable while she worked. She is a dedicated and hard worker so they wanted to ensure she could stay in her position. If your job is not time sensitive, it might be possible for you to start earlier and finish later to help with morning stiffness. Instead of taking an hour lunch break, it might be better for you to take two 30-minute breaks throughout the day. Even something as simple as asking if you could get up from your seat (in an office) and take a short walk, every now and then, may help stiffness.
Talk to an occupational therapist. Especially if your job requires a lot of sitting or standing in the one position. For example, if your job involves sitting a computer all day your OT could provide wrist straps to provide support while you type. They may also recommend back support cushions to allow you to be more comfortable while you sit.
The most important thing to do is to talk, to your boss, your work mate, or your doctor. Don’t keep your stress and worry about PSA and work bottled up. It won’t help. You deserve to be happy and as comfortable as you can be in your job so take the steps to try and make it happen!