Transitions into adulthood is back! After this series creating quite a conversation last year I have decided to make this an ongoing series on NSTP. Especially as I am now transitioning to the working world.
The conversations generated following the interview with my parents last year, inspired me to take the theme of transitions to The Occupational Therapy Show and I titled my talk ‘Service User, Student, Occupational Therapist. Yet, when reflecting on my talk and the blogs I produced last year, I realised just how big of a topic this is. I think a lot of reflective blogs will have to be written (sorry about that), to truly understand this ‘in-between stage’ I am at right now.
So, for this first blog in the series of 2022, I am going to focus on relationships. To do this I am going to discuss the different relationships I have in my life. So, grab a cuppa, as if it’s anything like my previous transition blogs, it’ll be a long one!
I’ve already said it, the biggest transition I’m going to make this year is finally transitioning into practice which of course involves forming new relationships. I love meeting new people and having a good chat and if I was just basing this on my personality then I would find it quite easy. Of course, my speech impairment makes this a little more complicated but, as I say forming the basics of the relationships comes quite naturally to me. Yet, when thinking about my disability this becomes a bit harder.
Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no one owes anyone their medical history. Yet, due to my disability there are certain ‘must have’ conversations in the work environment and I don’t just mean with occupational health. For example, warning whoever I eat my lunch with that I’m likely to choke. I know, I joke about this and will always say this in a ‘joking’ manner, but it is genuinely something that people around me need to be aware of.
Developing this level of the relationship is not always easy, I’m very lucky that I’d spoken to my line manager in my new role before I even knew about the job, (actually they’ve met my Dad) which is reassuring, so I’m feeling pretty comfortable. Having said that, the work environment will be the furthest I’ve been from home without anyone who knows me well which again makes it harder.
I know, a new role is daunting for anyone disabilities or no disabilities, and I do feel ready for this step. But knowing that my parents aren’t 10-minutes away feels different. There have been a few times my Dad has had to meet me on my uni campus to fix the wheelchair.
I do know I’ll be fine, I’ll use my occupational therapy skills to solve any problems. It does make me feel more vulnerable though and I’m aware that this vulnerability may last a lot longer than it would for a non-disabled person. Therefore, forming them crucial work relationships are key to ease my anxiety.
Since I have finished university the relationships with my friends have changed dramatically as we have all moved onto the next stage of our lives. Last summer was lovely, as because I wasn’t using my energy working, I could be quite spontaneous. Now I’m moving onto the working world and using up more energy them spontaneous trips will be few and far between. This is fine, work comes first and we all know how much I love to throw myself into my work. It’s harder to deal with though if you’re going out with friends who don’t have chronic fatigue.
My non-disabled friends are brilliant and in all fairness, we all lead busy lives so 9 out of 10 times it’s a planned event, so I can save up my energy for it. Sometimes though I know they’ll be weeks that fatigue or pain will hit me and I’ll have to cancel, my friends will always understand but I’ll still feel bad due to my internalised ableism. Life happens people get ill disability or not.
Think about how your transition into the world of work compares to mine, what differences do you notice? My transition feels much more complex when I throw my disability into the mix.
Last but certainly not least…
I decided to leave my family till last because I feel my transition into adulthood, has improved the relationship between my family and me. Being so vocal about my disability and disability rights has made the older generation of my family understand my relationship with my disability more. It has still been hard and I feel like if I wasn’t as heavily involved in disability activism as I am this would be a different story. On the other hand, sometimes knowing what I know, can be difficult at times as highlighting ableism to those who aren’t aware of ableism isn’t easy. Being more vocal due to my age and having these open discussions within the family has helped me a lot. But only because these conversations have been needed to get through such uncertain times.
As I start work there’s going to be some changes within my household, in terms of the extra support I may need or getting used to the change in energy levels. We prepare for that as this is our normal, it wasn’t down to luck that I can now walk without falling! As occupational therapists, we are used to grading and I certainly am, so I can slowly get used to managing my cerebral palsy whilst navigating the working world.
The main factor is patience and giving myself time. I will get into the new routine and get used to the changes in my occupational performance. But it’s not going to happen overnight. Patience is going to be needed from those around me and from myself (which is probably the biggest problem- we’ll save that conversation for another day)!
I would love to know your thoughts on your transitions, and if anything I said resonates with you or the people you are working with?
Thank you for reading,