Yesterday, I gave a bit of detail around what my life is currently like while I’m not working. Today, I’ll delve into A day in the life of Alexis when I’m working full time as an HR professional.
In my last role I worked for a very large, global HR outsourcing firm as an HR Analyst. I worked in the North Toronto office location, and lived in midtown Toronto (Yonge and Eglinton) about a 10 min walk to the subway and a 10 min subway ride to the office.
When I first began that job, my manager was aware of my medical issues and had great sympathy and understanding for me as she also suffered from severe back pain (this has not been th case before at previous companies / roles when disclosing my medical condition, nor was it when I moved to a new role within that same firm). For the first two weeks, she needed me to be in the office to get up to speed with everything, however, after that, we set up a flexible work arrangement with the appropriate HR department that would work for both myself, my manager, the team and my client (I will be discussing working and the issues I have faced in the past due to my disability in more detail in a future post).
My flexible work arrangement allowed me to work from home 2-3 days per week, as well as have flexible hours where I could come in early or later in the morning and leave earlier in the afternoon if I needed to. If that was ever the case, and I wasn’t able to work the full 8 hours in the office, the minute I got home I was right back on my pc working. In that role, it was rather stressful, and I had long hours – In a normal week I was working 60+ hours to meet the needs of the client, which is no good for anyone with a chronic pain and fatigue illness. I truly wish I didn’t require accommodations and flexibility for my illness in order to be able to work, as this causes additional stress on me when having the multiple conversations with management, peers, HR, etc but unfortunately these are the cards I was dealt and I’m doing the best I can to make the most of it.
So, a typical day for me would look like this:
Monday (working in the office)
5 AM – first alarm goes off
530 AM – my alarm has gone off twice more
6 AM – I am finally ready to try and drag my butt out of bed (on weeknight I try to be asleep between 10-11 which can be difficult but I need the sleep)
615 AM – I wasn’t quite ready to get up, so I spent some time stretching and moving ever so slowly out of bed (regardless of how long I’ve slept, my body hates the early morning between 5 and 8)
630 AM – I’m out of bed brushing my teeth, doing my hair quickly, doing my makeup for max five minutes (note – I can’t shower in the mornings as my fatigue is too much at this time of the day, so if I were to try and shower I would exhausted all of my energy for the morning that’s needed for getting ready and getting to work). I get dressed and try to wear something classy but comfortable, which is difficult to do in business clothes.
7 AM – I pop a keurig pod into the coffee machine, and make my coffee to go. I grab my lunch and snacks I made the night before, and start my walk to the subway station. I know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I’m never hungry enough until 9 or 10, so I bring some fruit with me.
715 AM – although the subway is a max 10 minute walk from my apartment, it takes me longer to get there because I’m dragging a laptop, my purse and lunch. By the time I get into the subway car I have exhausted so much of my energy, and due to the weight I’m carrying, my back is already in severe pain. I leave early in the morning for work so that I can avoid fighting with the rush hour traffic as this causes additional unecessary stress on my body, and I’m also able to get a seat on the train, which is key!
730 AM – I’m at the office now after dragging myself up from the subway. A colleague meets me to help hold the doors open for me because my morning fatigue doesn’t allow me to be able to open a simple door. We have a quick morning chat at my desk while I set up my laptop to my monitor and keyboard (the desk is semi ergonomically set up) and I plug in my heating pad for my back. I always commute in flat, comfy shoes, so I’ll take those off and put a pair of professional looking comfy shoes on – either nice wedges or flats.
I also fill my bottle with water and lemon, and take my antidepressant medication, as well as a strong pain reliever. I’m in a bit of pain already from the commute, but the minute I sit down at the computer I know I’ll be in severe pain all day so I preemptive it take the pain meds.
8 AM – there are only a handful of us in the office this early, so this allows me to get caught up on emails that came in overnight and start on my to do’s for the day and week. Because I have such a bad short term memory due to my fibro and chronic fatigue, I write every single thing down in a notebook, and in my calendar. I reference this list all day long, make changes, edits and additions as I go. If I didn’t keep this notebook or calendar, I would be screwed. I have pretty bad “brain fog” with fibro, so getting started early without distractions helps with this as well.
9 AM – by this point I’m still groggy and not yet awake, but have been able to get quite a bit of work done. My pain meds have also kicked in and I’m feeling more comfortable (the pain meds make me feel like I can do more than I am able to, so I have to watch that I don’t overdo it). My colleagues start coming in and setting up their desks, and I try to avoid talking to them so I can get my work done.
930 AM – I run down to the coffee shop to get either a cappuccino or an espresso macchiato (coffee number 2 today and hopefully the last) with a colleague, and we get caught up on the work we need to do for the client, etc. I also have a quick breakfast of fruit. I’m also feeling uncomfortable in my chair and desk, and try to do neck and back stretches when I can.
12 PM – I have been on back to back conference calls with my team, my manager, the client, my director reports, and the list goes on. While on these calls I’m also trying to multitask and get work done. I haven’t had a chance to get up and walk around at all because I have a headset but it’s not wireless (not I had requested one of these 2 years prior and it finally came my last week at the company). My doctor wants me up and stretching and walking around, which is just not possible to do. In addition that, when I get up and walk around it helps ease the pain, however, the minute I sit back down I’m in excruciating pain.
130 PM – still on calls, I try to run over, heat up my lunch, come back to my desk and eat it there. I also try to put some pain relief cream on my neck and back in the washroom. There are times when I’m on back to back calls all morning and afternoon, and don’t get 5 minutes to get something to eat or go for a walk. At these times, I have to walk away from the call and take a break or I won’t make it to the end of the day. My pain levels get much too high, and it’s not doing anyone any good with me staying on the calls until I have taken a quick needed break.
330 PM – I’ve still been on back to back calls while multitasking to get some work done. By this point my pain medication has long worn off so I take another. Between 330 and 4PM I pack up to head home since my body is in too much pain to sit or stand any longer at the office. Going home also allows my brain to settle down a bit, and not feel so overwhelmed. Nobody at the office really knows my story, nor would I want them to know about it. I work my butt off, and try to smile and hide my illness as much as possible. When I leave at 330 I tend to get very dirty stares from everyone, yet I’m first in the office, take no breaks or a lunch, and I go home and work several more hours at night. If only these “healthy” colleagues knew what I was going through.
430 PM – I’m home now, my pain meds have kicked in again. I set my laptop up at the table, turn on my heating pad I use at home, and continue working until about 630 when I break for dinner. If there is additional work to do that’s urgent, I will do it despite my body telling me no, and if not then I leave it for tomorrow. I’ll normally shower right after dinner because I won’t have the energy to do so right before bed, and most certainly not the next morning.
I spend the rest of the night laying down on the couch with a cup of herbal tea to ease my pain and fatigue. By the end of the day my body and mind are so exhausted that I may nap for an hour as well before getting to bed.
10 PM – I’m normally in bed by now, but because I take narcotics to manage my pain, they also wire my body and mind, so it takes me a couple of hours to fall asleep, despite how tired I am. This cycle goes on and on all week, which just makes the pain worse because I’m not able to sleep nearly as long as I need to.
Depending on how I’m feeling, and whether I need to be in the office for meetings, I would work at the office Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and break it up by working from home Wednesday and Friday, or I would work from home Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and go into the office on Mondays and Wednesday’s. Working from home allows my body to heal a bit because I get to sleep in to 8AM, I don’t have to make meals ahead of time, I don’t have to spend the energy or pain commuting in, I am not around the politics of the office which can be stressful, etc. I’m also able to get up and move around a lot more from home due to work with a wireless headset and not being in the confines of an office.
Although working from home helps me be able to work full time, my body still becomes more painful, stiff, and fatigued as the week goes on, and by the time Friday hits my body is toast. I normally spend Friday night relaxing on the couch, and I’ll take the weekend to recuperate as much as possible for the following workweek. If I have to do some extra work on the weekends I’ll do it while laying down on the couch with my laptop. Depending on the type of day I’ve had, I may end up at home in tears because of the extreme level of pain and fatigue I’m experiencing. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to be able to pace yourself in this fast paced working lifestyle we have now, and the pain management treatments I use can only do so much for me.
I play volleyball once a week, so I’ll normally try and work from home the day after, as it causes my pain to flare. I’m hoping when I start a new job I’ll be able to work a semi regular workweek, and can fit in yoga where I can.
Since I have my weekly Trigger Point Injections at the clinic at University and Dundas, I will spend my morning working from a coffee shop by there, run over to the doctor’s on my “lunch” and pray I make it out of there in time. This adds another level of stress to my day / week – although I’m seeing her for pain meds and treatment, having to rush over mid workday raises my blood pressure because I don’t want to miss any meetings or cause my managers and colleagues to feel like I’m unreliable. My other pain clinic is a 30-60 minute drive from our apartment downtown, which I go to every few weeks for treatments, so hopefully I’ll be able to fit that in when I’m back at work as well.
Well, there you have it, a day in the life of me when I’m working. What do your days look like with a chronic illness? Any questions or comments, feel free to share!
I’ll be doing a few more posts where I touch on topics around working, and how this affect me as a disabled person. I am now off to prep for a job interview.
Thanks for stopping by! Happy rainy Sunday all!