How to keep a Fulltime Job when working with Chronic Pain

Pain / Thursday, September 1st, 2016
Because I like nice things, I want to have a Job.

A brief intro to my story so far.

1990 I had a motorbike accident that resulted in complete paralysis of Robbie_toonmy dominant arm. I was almost 18. This also caused high amounts of Phantom Pain.

Since my mid-20’s I’ve been consistently employed fulltime, but have faced significant issues and threats to my employment. During the worst moments of my career my Employer has had me ‘functionally assessed’ by an Occupational Therapist and requested details of my condition, and ability to keep working, from my GP and Pain Specialist.

Please note it was an understandable decision for them to questions as I was a complete and utter train-wreck at that time.


Lessons I’ve learnt over the past 20 years

  • Your condition changes and it is critical to discuss this with your GP and Family, and depending on circumstances your employer.


  • No-one truly understands your Pain but you. It is very difficult to educate others.


  • Pain can be invisible.

Your reactions to experiencing Pain may be misinterpreted as you being moody, distant, angry or upset – which you may well be! Remember the only one inside your head is you, and if you have been suffering a period of pain or medication side-effects for the past 3 hours, your Manager may have no idea.


Work-life Balance

For me, the balancing act at work is between Pain, Exhaustion and Medication side-effects versus Energy and Mood.

Now things get complicated because that Balance is then itself balanced against my Home-Life balance (which in itself will be a whole other post!)


Yesterday, after discussing with my GP some recent concerning side-effects causing brain-fog & dizziness at Work, we decide to halve my morning dose of Lyrica. He made me promise to closely monitor resulting increases in Pain as he was insistent we never return to the ‘bad times’


The hardest Lesson.

Unfortunately I learned not everyone understands the impact of pain upon productivity. I had one manager who even wrote in a Performance Review that is “Not clear there is any correlation between Robbie’s issues with Pain and his Productivity results”.

Working with the beliefs this manager had was one of the hardest things to endure and eventually resulted in me ceasing any discussion of my health with them.

The struggles I was having at Work at that time also caused havoc with my home life as the resulting stress and exhaustion caused me to go to bed immediately after showering when I got home, sometimes for 3 days in a row.

Harsh lessons folks.

Of course the Reality is it may well happen that one day I can no longer work, but as icky as that scenario sounds we will still survive and adapt. If there’s one enduring lesson that living 26 years with one-arm and chronic pain, it’s that I’m a Survivor, and a bloody-well adaptable one!




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