Syringomyelia Saturdays
Job Interviews

Some of you may know that I’m currently unemployed & am looking for work; work preferably that involves working with vulnerable children that need extra support & care. Well, yesterday I had an informal interview with the director of a local children’s home for children who come from rough backgrounds. I was so excited! And the interview did go well, really well in-fact… until I had to spill the beans about my illnesses; namely my syringomyelia.


 

I met the director of the children’s home in a local cafe, which I will admit felt a little strange, but I think she wanted the interview to be casual so she could learn more about me as a person; rather than her interrogating me to see if I was suitable for the role. After all, in the type of work I want to do, personality is key; it is so important that you’re the type of person who is able to build up a good, professional relationship with your colleagues, as well as the children you’re working with. You need a good personality. And I won’t lie, I know I am good at this kind of work; difficult children like me, I’m like a magnet for them whenever I’m working in a classroom & I love it – the difficult children usually have a lot more to them & the psychologist in me likes to work them out. But I also like that I can make a real difference with these kinds of kids, & that’s why I want to do this kind of work so badly.

Anyway, the interview was going amazingly; I was so nervous about meeting the director, especially in a casual environment, because I was questioning how much of my professional side should be on show, & how much of my casual side should be on show; but it went really well. We genuinely seemed to get on very well & shared a lot of the same opinions – we didn’t just talk about children & psychology & social work, but also more general things like my interests in history & my dream to work with North Korean defectors one day. I told her about the issues I dealt with in my teens, in regard to my father & a controlling ex – & how I thought these things would help me in this kind of work. She honestly seemed to like me, & I liked her; I could really see myself working well with/for this woman.

Then, I had to tell her about my illnesses. Of course, I did consider not mentioning being sick, I considered pretending that so much of the last 5 years hadn’t happened... but, the truth is, I couldn’t tell her about where my passion for working with vulnerable children came from, without informing her about my own mental health issues, as well as my physical issues. So, my syringomyelia came up. It was strange to discuss it with someone who I wasn’t trying to make listen to me – for once I wanted the person I was talking to about my health to ignore it & say it’s not a big deal. So many people who get sick with conditions like mine spend hours upon hours convincing people that our ailments are serious, or trying to convince people that we really are in as much pain as we’re saying; but for once I didn’t want any of that. I knew I had to be honest about my back, because at the end of the day, I could end up putting myself or the children I work with at risk if the people around me aren’t aware of my spinal issues; but that doesn’t mean I was happy to talk about it.

Now, I know what some of you will be thinking – she can’t not hire you just because you’re sick! No, of course she can’t – but she has a duty to the children in her care (& she said, to the people she hires) to make sure they’re kept safe & are being looked after by capable people. And I am capable, in every single aspect, apart from my physical health. I may be in the best place I’ve been in 6 years, I may be starting to swim in a hydrotherapy pool more regularly (more on this in this week’s Medical Mondays post), I may have my pain mostly under control with my morphine patches & I may know how far I can push myself before my body gives up; but in reality that isn’t good enough. I could still be a risk, I could still end up accidentally hurting a child I’m restraining or carrying if my back suddenly decides it doesn’t want to work properly. Plus, if I get kicked or hit in the back, by a child who is having an emotional episode, then I could end up seriously injured – if they hit where my syrinx is, I honestly don’t know what would happen.

The director of the home was really lovely about my admissions, & she said she appreciated my honesty, but in return, she also had to be honest… & in the real world, my illnesses will affect my career. I know for a fact that this won’t be the last time that my syringomyelia ruins an interview for me. And d’ya know what? It fucking sucks. More than sucks, there aren’t words to describe how awful it makes me feel to know that something I have literally no control over may stop me from doing what I really want to do. I never asked for this condition, I never wanted to be as sick as I am; I spend so much time wishing I was normal & that I didn’t hurt all the time, & that I was as physically capable as my peers. I also really don’t want to live off of financial help from the government; it makes me ridiculously uncomfortable to consider that I may one day have no choice but to accept benefits as my only source of income. Everything about being chronically ill sucks.

The director said that my illnesses don’t mean I definitely won’t get the job, she said that everyone they hire is a risk because you never know how someone will react to working with such vulnerable children & whether they’ll be cut out for the job; she just said, that with me, there’s a slightly higher level of risk. And I get that, & I suppose I accept it. I understand it at least, but as she said, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating for me. She suggested that if I don’t get the job that I may want to do some volunteer work for them, so that I can see how well I do cope in that kind of environment – she said she’d be happy for me to do that with them. And that really is amazing of her; it will help further my career, even if I’m not earning from it, & it’ll also help me to get a better idea of how far I have actually come from the months I spent stuck in bed. It’ll also look good to future employers when I tell them about my syringomyelia.

I do really want this job though, & I know I’ve not been totally cut out of the race; I’m going for a group workshop/interview next week & then following that I should get a more formal interview with the other directors & managers of the home. But, they are going to have to consider if I’m capable of the job physically. Eugh. If I am the best person for the job, then my illnesses shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but I probably won’t be the best person for the job. Sigh.

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