How do you tell a (prospective) boss you have Hydrocephalus?

How do you tell a (prospective) boss you have Hydrocephalus?

In my last and final post on “How do you tell your boss you have Hydrocephalus?“.  I’ve covered the past, where I was diagnosed while in full-time employment.  And, I covered my present situation, having immigrated and starting a new job.  Now, I’d like to take a closer look at any prospective employers.

I suppose (for me) it’s like going into a romantic relationship with someone (without all the fluffy lovey Dovey stuff).  This person will prospectively be the one you rely on when and if you need urgent medical care.  To be understanding and supportive in ways that are essential to your own well-being and frame of mind especially since your energy will be focussed on physically getting back on track.  As anyone with Hydrocephalus will know, there are no guarantees of successful and speedy treatment, surgery or recovery.  In fact, there’s no way to tell that you will definitely need surgery again especially since some people go month to month (or less) in between surgery and others years apart.  It’s unpredictable and scary as hell.  Yes, we get through it but it’s different not only from person to person but each episode per person is unique, with slight similarities.  However, at the onset, this is information only you know and are aware of.

Changing jobs does not come easily to me.  I take the fact that it takes me longer to learn something new or commit it to memory more into account than anything else.  I even shy away from going on training because I know, I might be required to do an exam at the end of it but, my memory retention sucks so I just don’t bother.  However, I’m also a person who likes a challenge and sometimes push myself into situations where I don’t necessarily feel comfortable, just so I can push beyond my own limited boundaries.  When I immigrated, for example, I had no doubt in my mind that I would find another job (providing IT support), I walked around with the “pre-me” view of myself.  Then, once I was on the job, I discovered how stress added to my cognitive and memory/processing issues.  I felt that I had made a huge mistake by moving out of my comfort zone.  Eventually, I found my mojo and am back to baseline (if not better…(I’d like to believe)).  Being back in “a comfort zone” of sorts but paddling like crazy, I feel like I need to grow in my career again and push the boundary despite feeling that maybe this might not be such a good idea…

So, to give this a try, I had a chat with a prospective Team leader in a different team a few weeks back, to see what my chances were of getting into her team.  The whole conversation went well and she seemed excited.  However, I had the nagging feeling to divulge the fact that I have Hydrocephalus.  She seemed interested enough to ask what it is and was obviously taken aback at the words “brain surgery“.  I kindly told her that “I know you can’t discriminate against someone because of a medical condition but I wouldn’t take offence if this was a deal breaker“.  She assured me that it wasn’t but I think at the moment, it was probably an unconscious response. A few weeks later, it appears my chances have been hindered especially since I haven’t heard from her again, even after a follow-up e-mail.  Does it mean ALL prospective employers/managers will do this…maybe.  Does it mean I give up..?  Being me, hell no!

The thing is…I have been stopping myself from changing positions simply because I find having to learn something new extremely daunting.  I don’t doubt that I can but it’ll take time and loads of patience, two things a prospective employer might not necessarily be up for.  Despite the outcome, I’ve decided to do some training in this field and push my boundaries regardless of the outcome of our meeting.

We can only control our own attitude and response in any given situation, what others do is not within our control.  More importantly, don’t let it break you down, in contrast, find the strength inside to launch yourself forward and do what makes you a better person.  Furthermore, one person’s reaction/actions do not dictate that of others who will cross your path.

So, at what point do you tell a prospective employer?

This has become a simple enough answer for me (thanks to the comments I’ve received on my 2 previous posts).  From experience, proving myself to my employer is paramount to my survival as a contributing member of staff.  I truly believe that my current employer has the confidence and trust in my abilities purely because I showcased it first, before telling them about my medical condition.  Then, after telling them, I continued to strive to be better on a daily basis…giving it my all and taking pride in my deliverables.

In fact, since my Hydro has been (mostly) behaving, they haven’t seen the full effect of it.  I suppose this helps my situation in more ways than one.

As far as a prospective employer goes, if it means keeping it to myself for the time being while I build up a reputation of my work ethic, then so be it.  If it means having bad days in between and bearing the effects with the fight of a lifetime, then so be it.  I’ve been doing that for the last 5 plus years now and even though it hasn’t always been easy, it hasn’t killed me yet.  Risky? Maybe…

My advice to you:

  • Check the company’s health coverage policies so as not to jeopardise yourself any more than you need to.
  • Decide when and if you are ready to tell a colleague/Team Leader/Manager.  Be comfortable in your decision and the person/people you choose to tell.  A colleague might be a good first step, someone who will have your back especially if it’s just to ask how you’re doing from time to time.  I have someone like this at work and honestly, he doesn’t overwhelm me with his concern and that’s awesome because when he does show concern, I feel like someone actually cares.
  • Decide just how much or little you tell them.  Remember, they won’t understand half of it anyway, so stick to the need to know facts and don’t overwhelm them.
  • If your Hydrocephalus allows you to, build up your rapport first and prove your worth.
  • Hone in on your strengths, build them up, identify and accept your challenges and, don’t be scared to fail or make mistakes.  (Don’t be too hard on yourself…easier said than done, I know but try).

This life is about survival and I know that only too well.  So…if it means to keep it to yourself in the interim, then do so.  I know not all of us are in a position to do this because of the level of how this condition affects us, it just seems different.

We all know the effects of living with an invisible condition, so for once in your life (provided you’re in a position to), let that work in your favour if nothing else.

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