Finding My First Job Since My AS Diagnosis

Having AS has certainly had a very detrimental impact on my career. I was sacked by my employers once they learned my new medical status and spent the next year re-learning how to walk and finding ways to manage my condition. When I was finally able to try the whole "being employed" thing again, COVID had other ideas. Just as I was back on my feet, it forced me to lock myself back inside for another year and a half.

Unsurprisingly, no companies were willing to hire somebody that had no clue when he would be able to step out of his house and into their office.

My unemployment woes didn’t end after I was jabbed up and allowed to re-join society either. Presumably because the 3-year gap in employment on my resume looked like I was intentionally bumming around.

I found luck in a hopeless place

Finally, I had some good luck when I was least expecting it. I met up with an old school friend for a few beers and a catch up, during which we discussed the issues I was having finding a job. On my way home I got talking with a woman from Ukraine who had moved to London due to the ongoing war in her homeland. We had a lot of laughs but when she asked me what I did for work, I awkwardly admitted that I wasn’t working at the minute but was previously a TEFL teacher.

As luck would have it, she was working in a language school that taught English to international students and she suggested that I swing by some time for an interview. They were looking for somebody to take students out on tours of London and practice English in a social setting whilst taking in some culture.

However, I did have some concerns about taking on a new job after so long out of the game. Especially one that needed my arthritic body to do a bunch of walking.

Walking worries

The part that worried me the most about starting this job was not knowing what kind of impact it was going to have on my body. Since my diagnosis, I had not done a great deal of walking and I was now starting a job that needed me to lead groups of students all over a massive city like London.

I didn’t want to be in pain every day at work, and I was even more worried about disturbing the young students if they were to see me suffering.

The first few shifts were pretty brutal. Over the past few years, my body had become very attached to its favorite morning routine of attacking me with a trifecta of pain, fatigue, and a whole bunch of stiffness up until lunchtime. Which meant that getting in at 8am ready to embark on a walking tour was a real challenge.

Miraculously, over time, I have found the extra walking has actually done me wonders. I’ve noticed that my pain and stiffness levels have gone down as my body has got used to being more active. I‘m very impressed at how well my joints have coped and even improved since I started!

Unfortunately, it has not had the same impact on my fatigue levels and every shift has had to be fuelled by caffeine. I have been met with many giggles and shocked faces from my colleagues when I’ve turned up with a coffee and an energy drink to get me through the shift. I know it probably isn’t the healthiest idea, but I am yet to find an alternative solution.

Confidence concerns

I realized that the time that I spent separated from society while I was dealing with my new diagnosis and shielding during the pandemic had affected me a lot more than I had thought. I’ve always been a very confident and outgoing person, if you ask anyone that knows me to describe me that would probably be the first thing that they say (if you ask them to keep their answer clean that is!). But when I started this job, I realized that my people skills were incredibly rusty.

The anxiety of being around people again brought my brain fog to new heights and I was really struggling to put cohesive sentences together to the students. Which is certainly not ideal when the whole purpose of my job is to help them improve their English proficiency!

Thankfully my inability to speak properly did not turn out to be another chronic condition to add to my ever-growing list. It was more of a case of being out of practice and over time, I have built my confidence back up.

Not only do I now find myself in a place where I am able to build wonderful relationships with my students and co-workers, but I definitely feel more like my old crazy outgoing self again in my social life too.

Understanding my needs

I hadn’t previously been employed since I added AS to my resume and had concerns about how understanding my employers would be about my condition.

I was nervous about revealing too much about my condition during the interview process on account of my previous bad experience with employers. But I did let them know the basics – there will be days where I need to take it easy and others that I won’t be able to do anything at all and there may be little to no warning of when these days will come around.

They assured me that this wouldn’t be a problem, but so did my ex who broke up with me for having a flare up, so I still had my doubts!

Thankfully my trust issues were proven wrong, and the school has been amazing. They’ve allowed me to take days off when my body needs it and to stagger my shifts so that I have time to recover after a particularly brutal walking tour. They also know not to expect too much from me on a Friday morning when I am nursing a methotrexate hangover!

Final thoughts

I really hope that I am not speaking too soon, but I am thoroughly enjoying things so far and so proud of how well my body has coped.

Of course, I still do have worries that my body will fail me at some point with another nasty flare up. This would have course be an issue whether I’m working or not, so I will cross that bridge if or when I come to it. For the moment, I am loving that I have an opportunity to explore my hometown more than I ever have and to meet some wonderful people from around the world along the way.

After spending so long without a job, I was starting to feel like the rest of my life was going to be filled with unemployment and chronic illness. I’m over the moon that I couldn’t have been more wrong about this self-diagnosis. I have a whole new positive outlook and realise that I can do something positive career- wise, despite my condition’s best attempts to get in the way!

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