Today I had my first grown-up job interview. (Years of cruising into bar jobs aren’t quite the same). But just six months ago I was miserably contemplating a life of unemployment. I had started to listen to the shitty little voices in my head, needling away, telling me that nobody would want me because I had Endo. I couldn’t see past my next doctor appointment. I knew that I had a strong work ethic, a mind that craved stimulation and good values to offer, but I was losing confidence.
Going public about having Endo was a big decision and one which I knew could have ramifications for me in the future. I wasn’t sure if ‘outing myself’ was the smartest move if I wanted a career. Would anyone hire me if they knew I had a chronic illness? I had the opportunity to remain anonymous. Instead, I chose to put myself out there – full name, full disclosure, total transparency. Despite the perceived risks, to me it was a no-brainer. How could I express the importance of public awareness about endo and encourage others to do the same while hiding my identity? It would be a total contradiction.
The idea of ‘coming out’ was to set the standard for others and try to change the narrative of having endo. I was tired of hiding my illness. Sick of coming up with excuses as to why I wasn’t feeling well just so I could avoid explaining a UTI to a male employer (nope, nope, not an STI) or what the hell Endo even meant. I’m still trying to figure that out myself. Why should we have to hide it? Why should we be embarrassed? Why should we be discriminated against and treated unfairly, simply because nobody has heard of endo or understands what it’s all about? I thought that by coming out and talking openly about having endo then others might feel encouraged to do the same. If enough of us started doing it then maybe endo would become just as well known as breast cancer and soon we’d be wondering what we were ever afraid of! I knew that this would take time but you’ve gotta start somewhere right?
I feel proud of what I’ve done because it relieves me of having to hide a part of myself and I know that it’s made other women and girls just like me feel more confident about telling their friends, family, employers and work colleagues because they no longer feel alone. If I’ve made life a little easier for just one person, that’s more than I could hope for.
This morning I received a comment on my blog from a Mum named Michelle, who reminded me why it was so important for me to go public and lend my face and full name to endo, whatever the personal cost.
“My daughter rang me tonight crying… she saw ACA (A Current Affair) she has been dealing with all that was described for years so much pain and made to feel like its all in her head till she gave up and just accepted it. Now she knows she isn’t the only one. Thank you so much. My daughter is now going to keep trying to get the help she needs.”
THAT is why I’m out and proud.
When I Google my own name today, the first thing that comes up is my blog. (Which, if you’re a regular reader or viewer of my DIY hormone injection videos, you’d know is rather personal) Then up comes EndoActive. So yeah, there’s NO hiding the fact that I’ve got endo from anyone who cares to do a 2 second online search. My life over the past few months is free for all to see and judge. Prospective employers included. And that is a conscious decision I made in the hopes that it would ignite a change in endo awareness and public dialogue surrounding ‘women’s issues’.
Now, back to my job interview. I pretty well knew that if my interviewer had Googled me, she’d know everything. But there was a little lah-di-dah part of my brain that thought perhaps I’d just be walking in as Syl Freedman. Recent uni grad. Aaaaand that’s about it. Fat chance. In fact, one of the first things my interviewer said to me (who was totally lovely and supportive by the way) was, “saw you on A Current Affair last night.” A year ago, that would’ve petrified me. This morning, it felt great. Before we’d even begun the interview, the elephant in the room was out of the way. She knew everything and still, here she was having coffee with me, smiling at me, considering me for a fantastic job.
I know from your stories there are thousands of you who have been mistreated or dismissed unfairly at work or school or forced to leave your studies because of having endo. You’ve been misunderstood or not taken seriously. Instead of feeling empowered, you’ve been forced to disguise your illness or even worse – punished for being up front about it. NAHT COOL MAN!
But today I got a taste of what it feels like to have a potential employer already know it all and just be chill about it. So chill. She didn’t treat me any differently and I felt like she saw me for me, not for my disease. I felt comfortable and proud in my own skin. I didn’t feel I was being treated like ‘the sick girl’ as so many of us have been unfairly labelled at one time or another. After all, I’ve been feeling strong and healthy and pain-free for months. I didn’t have to pick a moment to break the news. I didn’t have to awkwardly explain what endo is while watching her facial expressions change and then stress till I’m a trembling fist of anxiety about whether she’ll want me anymore. And the reason for that is because Endo is OUT THERE. It has been in the public eye in Australia more in the past few months than it has in YEARS (and I know that from doing academic searches through journals and newspapers at uni). It is beginning to be discussed in the media, in conversation and gradually being more understood.
Today I felt so proud to be out. I just want everyone to have a go.
PS my beautiful cat Pepi is sick. Real sick. Can you please send her telepathic you-go-girls and get-betters for me? She needs some fighting spirit.