We Heard From You! Psoriatic Arthritis in the Workplace
Last updated: March 2020
Too often, it is easy to feel misunderstood in the workplace. We show up to get a job done, and we hope for compassion and understanding from our bosses and coworkers, but that is not always the case.
Psoriatic arthritis in the workplace brings its own set of unique hurdles, especially considering that it can range from being an invisible disease to a highly visible one.
Workplace challenges when living with psoriatic arthritis
To hear what your struggles with PA are and how you handle them, we reached out on the Psoriatic-Arthritis.com Facebook page, asking: “What should people know about psoriatic arthritis in the workplace?”
More than 50 of you commented, and here is what you had to say.
“I may look fine, but I am not.”
Many of you shared that the hardest part of dealing with psoriatic arthritis in the workplace is that too often your coworkers or even your bosses stare, give dirty looks or make negative comments if you take breaks, take the elevator or otherwise take measures to take care of yourself.
It is up to you how to handle it. You do not owe your coworkers any explanations. Even if you were to explain yourself, it is likely that someone may not understand. Shame researcher and author Brene Brown stresses that people need to earn the right to hear our stories, especially if they are sensitive information.
However, this may not be the case with your boss, who may need to know more if you are missing days of work due to not feeling well. But again, even sharing that is your choice.
“I may look fine, but I am not. Please do not treat me like there is nothing wrong with me. I have had so many previous bosses act like I am faking my illness. I got fired for that reason for the first time ever last spring. I have had to reduce the number of hours I work. Full time is not an option. I am thankful for the understanding boss that I have now!”
“I feel like I need to wear a sign announcing my disease. I work in a hospital, but very few people understand this disease and its disabilities. I am tired of the glares and disapproving looks from coworkers when I take the elevator instead of the stairs.”
“It took me till months to prove to all that I am worth it!”
Just because you sometimes have physical limitations does not mean you do not have value. Hardly. That said, it can be hard to reach that place of confidence where you know you deserve your salary or pay rate.
It is especially hard to stay strong in knowing your worth if you do miss a day or have to take time off. However, the firmer you stand in your truth and owning your value, the more likely your employer will follow suit.
“It is a hidden disease and we do not all respond the same to it! I got my contract changed to 18.5 hours, which has been a lifesaver. I work these hours over 3 days. I do my work as well as the rest of them because I have the recovery time I need. You have to be assertive in this life but also not be too sensitive. I got back in September, but it took me till Dec to prove to all that I am worth it!”
“Just had to very firmly tell my boss I was no longer running a 4 to 6 times a year fundraiser that required me to get up at 4 am, stand on concrete for 8 hours, and either freeze or burn up depending on the time of year. I am still waiting on the fallout, but I am tired of spending two days in bed to recover. It is not worth it.”
“Our skin condition is not contagious.”
Yes, psoriasis and plaques may spark others to ask what is going on. One tactic is to answer honestly, and inform people that this diagnosis is not contagious. Some of you choose at times to simply let people think it is a rash—but this may mean you are avoiding the truth out of a sense of shame.
There is nothing to be ashamed about. Everyone in life has a struggle, and this one is simply more visible. If it helps, try to keep in mind that most people are so self-focused that they are not really aware of you or what is going on with your body. They may look or ask a question, but you are certainly not the focus of their day.
“We are not contagious.”
“Our skin condition is not contagious.”
“We can only go as fast as we can.”
Because of stiffness in the joints, among other symptoms, it can be hard to move as fast as your coworkers. And that is OK. Many of you are recognizing and accepting your physical limitations.
It's important to invite your bosses and coworkers to do the same. After all, we teach people how to treat us.
“We can only go as fast as we can. And we can sometimes be a bit slow in processing speed. It comes and goes though. And yes, sometimes our productivity will take a hit.”
“I can only go as fast as I can. Our minds sometimes can be a bit slow. There are some things we cannot do, but we are capable of doing 90 percent of things. It is not physically possible to be on time after working 12+ hour days. For years, I stayed until the project was finished, but there are limits, and ramifications, to my use of energy.”
Thank you! Happy workdays ahead
We want to say thank you to everyone who shared their experiences with psoriatic arthritis in the workplace. It is our hope that more people in the community cut themselves some slack, and that their bosses and coworkers gain more understanding as well.
Do you have any questions about PsA?