I recently came upon something I wrote almost four years ago regarding my life with having ulcerative colitis and how having a chronic disease in my teens, twenties, and into thirties impacted my ability to be gainfully employed. At times I lament about not having a typical career or traditional life path; how I get through that sadness is to find the humor in it all. What follows is my reframe of what skill set my life with ulcerative colitis has provided me.
Originally written: Monday, July 19, 2010
During the years most people spend in high school, going to college, and building a career, I spent in a unique way. I spent those years frequenting hospitals and operating rooms, periodically attending college, and I totally neglected to build practical work experience. It could be said I unwittingly made a career in chronic disease and have been practicing as a professional patient for more than three decades.
My life with active ulcerative colitis made keeping a reliable life schedule challenging. At the zenith of my days of intestinal-rectal misery, I was a virtual Old Faithful with bowel movements about every 90 minutes.
The episodes I'd have on the toilet would last about 5-10 minutes. Contrary to what most people do while sitting on the toilet, I did not get a lot of reading done during those minutes. It was more of a process of writhing, buckling, squirming, cringing, and trembling until the bowel-quake would subside.
At night I could look forward to at least 120 minutes or more between eruptions. Sometimes my bowels worked all on their own without me.
There are times I feel depressed that I lack paid job experience. I have plenty of volunteer experiences, and modest self-employment. It seems like only paid work truly counst in the Big Scheme of Things.
The question I've long grappled with is: Who would want to hire a person with a 30 year history of a chronic disease that has kept them from gainful employment? My reliability is suspect, but it's certain I'd make health premiums increase.
Maybe it is all in the way I look at myself. They say people wanting to make a career change need to translate their skills into how they would be able to perform at a different job.
Thinking in these terms, I realize how my disease has provided me with real-world skills. If written in standard form, my skills would rival even the most impressive bullet-pointed resumes.
- I have had more than 20 bowel movements in one day, without eating a single morsel of food or drinking a drop of water. (I was given intravenous fluids.) Everyone else requires three square meals and usually a day or two to generate just one bowel movement. Therefore, I have determined I can perform miracles. I can generate something out of nothing, making me perfect for jobs that require high employee productivity.
I have an intuitive, almost psychic-like sense of locating a bathroom no matter where I am. Thus, I have a preternatural ability to locate valuable resources, materials, and personnel out of thin air.
My disease has made me intimately familiar with fecal matter in all forms. Putting up with a lot of shit is in my nature. Thus, I'd be a perfect fit in all careers.
- I've also spent a lot of time vomiting. Putting it in perspective, it's like I have had morning sickness for about 10 years. I'd be great at middle management because I can handle shit from both ends.