Though many of us hate it, there was definitely a void in my life left by the absence of getting up and going to work each day. I suppose it’s one of those “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” situations. In that situation it’s particularly relevant to examine what something that we so often complained about provided for us.
What Do I miss About Work?
- Well the first thing that jumps to mind is FINANCIAL SECURITY. One that means you don’t have to rely on welfare and benefits (particularly given the precarious position the welfare state is in at the present time).
- That SENSE OF PURPOSE of knowing that you’ve task to do, money to earn, having a role to play and a contribution to make to whatever business or work it is you are involved in. It makes us feel useful and when we are forced to stop doing our jobs it can leave an absence where we feel the exact opposite – useless.
- This may seem odd and maybe it comes from not having done it for a while but I miss that feeling of sore feet at the end of the day, feeling worn out but knowing I have earned my keep – THE PRIDE OF A DAY’S WORK DONE.
- I miss the SOCIAL INTERACTION. As I said in the first post, most of my working life has consisted of working in pubs, cafes and on building sites. In the service industry you built friendly and cordial relationships with regular customers and in the building trade there is a lot of banter and mickey taking. Social interaction is one of the things I have struggled to replace since my TBI.
- CONTRIBUTING TO THE HOUSEHOLD AND THE COMMUNITY. Ever since I first left school I have had to pay rent to my parents. No complaints here (especially since the injury), but believe it or not, I wish I could give them more, I wish I could pay tax; I wish I was able to put more back into society. I think that playing your part in this way reinforces the concept of community (a concept I believe to be gradually falling away).
Things We Can Do To Re-enter the Workplace & Fill That Void
So how can we replace the type of things that I mentioned above? Is it possible to get back into work after a brain injury? Not all the time. However that is not always the patients’ fault, there are other contributing factors as well. But here is a list of some of the things I have done to help me re-enter employment.
- This was first on my list in the last blog post and I’m sure will appear on every post throughout this mini-series. Acknowledge and accept your weaknesses and inabilities and set appropriate boundaries on what’s possible and what isn’t. Working within these boundaries is the only safe and healthy way to approach re-entering the workplace and employment.
- If, as we all have post-brain injury, we find that we have lost certain skills or those skills have been impacted upon by the injury, there is a period of time that must be spent trying to regain or improve those skills. This is immensely difficult and cannot be done overnight, but this challenge should not be seen as something that is done just to get back into work, those skills will also be useful as life skills. Or if you feel you need to or that you want to, why not try learning some new skills? There are many options for open education and learning that can be provided by many charities (Headway being one of them) as well as outside institutions such as the Open University.
- Volunteer Work is a good option if you’re thinking of re-entering the workplace. Charity shops are a good place to start. While you are not necessarily being paid, they are flexible organizations, always looking for people to help out. It will also allow you to socialize and get used to the pace of working, strengthening the cognitive thought processes we use on a daily basis and slowly building stamina.
- This point comes back to the first point I made, it is about knowing your boundaries. While knowing your limitations is partly for drawing the line on what you can’t do it, by doing this it also defines the boundaries of what you can do. What I mean by this is that just because you have a disability like an ABI or TBI, it doesn’t mean you have to settle for the bare minimum. If you know yourself, know your condition, your strengths, weaknesses, like and dislikes, then do whatever you can do and what makes you happy. Do what is possible within the limitations you set for yourself, not the limitations put on you by others.
That last sentence of my previous point is significant. I think it’s important to be aware of the fact that many employers may be reluctant to hire someone with a disability as complex a brain injury. So what can we do to overcome even more adversity?
How Can We Avoid & Overcome Prejudice Against Disability In The Workplace
- Look at ways of showing off your skills and putting them in the shop window. With all the technology and social media tools we now have at our disposal it’s become far easier to sell your skill set online. Try putting a CV up on LinkedIn and applying for jobs, contributing to forums or starting a blog. Take initiative and build up work experience, voluntary or paid, and this can significantly improve your chances of finding work.
- Be willing to work hard and make things happen. Many people without a disability aren’t willing to do this. If we do our best to make things happen for ourselves, build opportunities and work hard to take advantage of those opportunities, you’ll be surprised at how you can subvert the expectations people have regarding “what disabled people are like”.
- If we combine the two things I have listed above, we come to a potential long-term solution for people with disabilities; and that is to start your own business and work from home. This eliminates the potential (conscious or subconscious) discrimination potential employers have against disabled people while allowing you to schedule your work around the time required for managing your disability. While it takes a while to build a steady business, you could potentially reap huge benefits in the long run.
Finally the most important thing is to put yourselves out there and not be afraid. Be proud of who you are, disability and all. You never know, for all I have said here, just handing out CV’s in the local area, looking well groomed in smart clothes and making some enquiries may pay dividends.
P.S. I’ve always found, upon the first introduction with a potential employer, looking them in the eye with a smile on your face while providing a firm handshake and thanking them for their time does well. Never underestimate a good first impression.
About the author
My life was changed for ever on the 30th of August 2009 when an attack on a night out left me with sever brain injuries. I was left in an induced coma after suffering fractures to the skull, bleeds on the brain, as well as severe bruising to the frontal lobes. Since the injury I have found it hard to find and keep work, to maintain relationships, and generally stay positive. I have decided to share all of my journey with you, in the hope we can bring brain injury awareness to the level it should be at. Please, follow my own WordPress blog Life After Brain Injury to keep up to date with my brain injury journey! Follow me on Twitter: @ABIBlogger
Tom Massey, ABI Blogger