I am not certain what inspired me to google “work accommodations for fibromyalgia.” After all, my supervisors have been very understanding and supportive as I have struggled, had doctor’s appointments, missed days, had more doctors’ appointments, and ultimately started sobbing in a meeting with them in which I announced that I couldn’t manage it anymore and had to go on part-time FMLA—where my schedule became even nuttier.
Through the last year and a half, my supervisors have been accommodating. I asked for a standing desk, and I received one immediately. I unscrewed the florescent lights over my work station. My job has incredibly flexible hours, so I can schedule appointments during the work day. I can call my doctors during work hours. I can work from home. I can make-up hours over the weekend if needed. Coworkers have asked repeatedly how I’m doing, and many have let me know that if I ever need to talk, that they have an ear or two to lend. I am so, so lucky.
And yet, I still googled “work accommodations for fibromyalgia.” My return to work at 32 hours was difficult, even though I had been slowly and incrementally increasing my hours under FMLA. It was and is exhausting to work 32 hours. Then I started my graduate Latin class, which I love, and the fatigue increased another level. Further, the difference between a good and bad day is stark, and I never know which way that pendulum is going to swing. I value reliability in myself and in others, so my unreliability day to day is another thing that I have to manage in my workload and classwork.
When I started reading the list of possible workplace accommodations, I was both surprised and not surprised by how many I had already received. Fibromyalgia can affect people in vastly different ways, so some accommodations, such as providing close parking when I bicycle or walk to work most days, are unnecessary. Others, though, like a flexible schedule and the ability to work from home are very much in demand. I did, however, have to laugh at the suggestion to “reduce job stress.” If only! I printed off the list and discussed it with my supervisor who took notes, offered encouragement, and set up meetings with the people I had to talk to (because she’s genuinely amazing).
As we begin the process of moving through official channels with the ADA office on campus, I have been struck by two very different things:
- I have a serious enough problem to be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and
- my own difficulties pale in comparison to those who have needed the protections of the ADA and lacked the supportive environment that I have been so fortunate to have.
Many individuals fear coming forward with their own difficulties and needs for support due to fear of retaliation where I have been able to be transparent about my needs and have had them validated. Based on the list of accommodations I found and which the university also uses as a resource, other people have needed the protections of the ADA to be able to call a doctor (let alone go to see one!) during work hours. Such a need is inconceivable to me.
I may not be where I had imagined myself in life, but I could not imagine a better team of people to be with.