Working A Warehouse Job With HS (Part 2)
Last updated: September 2022
In case you missed it, check out Part 1 of this series!
Deciding to talk to my supervisor about my HS symptoms terrified me to no end. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my supervisor. In fact, as of the day I’m writing this article, I still work at that same warehouse (part-time now, though) and he is still, by far, one of the best supervisors I’ve ever had. But aside from some family members, a few close friends and a couple of professors, I’d kept my HS to myself.
Opening up about my diagnosis
Today, I was moving particularly slowly in the production room I was assigned to work in. I had a boil under one of my arms that was on the verge of bursting open, but it was surely taking its sweet time doing so. My supervisor pulled me aside and asked me if I was okay and I felt the tears welling up before I could even get a word out.
I stumbled over my words as I explained to him that I had this “weird skin condition that hurts like a…” (I’ll let you fill in the blank, for the purposes of this article). I told him about the pain and about how I couldn’t move my arms the way I wanted to. I didn’t want him to think I was being lazy or trying to get out of work. But then he stopped me.
Not only was he empathetic to my HS, but he explained to me that he’d experienced having boils as well. I now know that HS is more common than I thought it was, but at the time, this really surprised me. Other than my mom, I didn’t know many people with HS. He told me he didn’t get boils as bad as mine were, but he understood the pain and explained to me that I didn’t need to feel afraid to tell him.
Cue the waterworks
Eventually, I got two surgeries under both of my arms to address my HS, thanks to the health insurance and short-term disability that my job provided. But we’ll bypass those surgery details for another article at another time.
Working in a warehouse while having HS has taught me a lot about myself and what my body can and can’t take. And when I’m having a bad flare-up, I’ve learned that it can only take so much. And that’s okay; I didn’t need to shame myself for that.
But I also learned that I didn’t have to feel bad for being vulnerable and open when there were things I needed to do that my body just couldn’t handle. But as a woman working in a warehouse with mostly men, this was a little uncomfortable for me to do at first. I was anxious and out of my comfort zone. But the men that I was so nervous to ask for help from are the same men that I now trust and rely on.
Being open can be helpful
In January, I will be celebrating my third year anniversary with one of them (funny how that works). At the end of the day, is working in a warehouse with a debilitating skin disease my ideal job? In my experience, absolutely not.
But if that’s the case for you (if it’s something your body can handle), I found that being open with the people you work with can be helpful, if you're comfortable doing so. I started by talking to my supervisor and then I told a few of my co-workers. When I was gone from work to heal after my surgeries, more of my co-workers asked about my condition and over time, I felt more and more comfortable opening up to them.
Allowing myself to be honest is a huge strength
I aim to do what I can when I go to work and for the most part, I do pretty well without needing much help, especially after my surgeries. But I’m also open with my supervisor if I just need to work alone that day or need extra time to get things done. I’ve learned a lot at my job (though most of it is somewhat useless knowledge of stabilizers and emulsifiers), but the biggest lesson I learned was how allowing myself to be honest and open could be a huge strength, not a weakness.
Oh, and I also learned that when a fork truck battery starts to go bad, it smells like flatulence. Do what you will with that information...
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