The decision to share a serious health issue is a hard one and I struggle with it. Last summer when I first experienced symptoms and I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I talked about it openly at work. I know part of this is because I’d been at the company five years and had a good relationship with my boss and co-workers. I talked to them as I did my boyfriend about how I was feeling, let them know what happened at the doctor appointments and ultimately shared my diagnosis; the exact opposite of what my neurologist advised me to do.
He told me that I didn’t have to tell anyone, not even my boyfriend. And said it was better to keep it private, especially because I didn’t have any disabilities. He said that it could put me at a disadvantage at work and that it could put stress on a relationship. When I told him that everyone already knew, he sighed and seemed disappointed. Why was that wrong?
In my situation, telling people was the best thing I could have done. I had so much support. And even though I try not to doubt my health – it always helped to know that if for some reason something happened to me at work, I wouldn’t have to explain it, they would just know it’s the MS.
In February I changed jobs and I haven’t told anyone at my new workplace. I didn’t want my co-workers or boss to think that I was using it as an excuse and I didn’t want it to hurt my chances at advancing (the whole reason I changed jobs!)
But it’s been an internal struggle. Even though I’ll never claim this disease or let it define who I am – it has changed my life and affected my life – effectively becoming a part of my life. Sometimes it feels like I’m just keeping a big secret.
I recently mentioned to my boyfriend that I was going to tell my boss. He responded, “Why? If you had herpes would you tell your boss?” Of course I said no. He continued, “You don’t have to tell people your health; it’s private. I wouldn’t tell him.”
And I decided not to tell… at least not yet.