Jennifer Moulds shares her personal story of living with a chronic health condition and how Patchwork Hub has support her journey to finding work.
The past few years have
been particularly difficult, but Patchwork Hub has filled me with hope.
November 2016, I was in my second year at university and in bed with a nasty
sore throat and high temperature. If someone had told me that it would take me
several years to recover from this virus, I would not have believed them. After
a couple of weeks of feeling exhausted and strange, my friends persuaded me to
see a GP. I was told that my dizziness, queasiness, and panic attacks were
symptoms of post-viral postural tachycardia syndrome (where the autonomic
nervous system stops working properly) and that I would be well again by
Christmas. Instead, my health dramatically deteriorated. This climaxed in
February 2017 when I was forced to suspend my studies and go home to be nursed
by my mum. Nearly four years on, I am still recovering.
come a long way since that point in February. From being bedridden and needing
constant care, I am now living semi-independently at university studying
German. Family and friends help with laundry and shopping and I am fortunate
enough to have a cleaner who visits the student accommodation daily – all of
which allows me the time and strength to continue my studies. My timetable is
reduced and my exams are spread out to make finishing my degree an achievable
goal. While I am far from living the active life of my peers, I am so happy to
be at a point when I can do the things I want to do again!
There have been many
factors which have contributed to me reaching this level of health, including
medication, physiotherapy, and changes to my diet. I have also been taught
tools to manage panic and anxiety, which include cognitive behavioural therapy
(CBT) and meditative practices.
stock of resources is allowing me to return to the life I want, but it has not
yet given me the level of health which a conventional job would require. Many
of my friends are now entering the world of employment and are expected to meet
a set timetable of tasks and working hours, often involving a fluctuating
workload which can be very intense at times. This is not sustainable for me.
means work takes me longer than it used to and I work at 20-minute intervals to
manage this. I lie down or recline in between to relieve the heart palpitations
and fatigue-headaches which the stress and effort trigger. Even if these
physical needs could be met at a future place of work, I am easily overwhelmed
and drained by constant background noise and interaction with people. My
symptoms are also worse early morning and in the evening, which, as a student,
rules out most social events, but as an employee would worryingly diminish my
working-day. How could I possibly manage the office jobs or paid internships of
my friends? And what employer would pay me for a ‘day’ which would have to be
so much shorter than 9-5 and for tasks that would take me longer to do than
other people? And if I had a bad day, or a bad week, what then? A tutor might
let me miss the occasional essay for health reasons, but this surely would not
be tolerated in a work setting.
one year to go until I graduate and these thoughts and doubts whirl in my mind.
I was realising with a sort of hopeless sadness that, unless my health improves
significantly over the next few months, it is not realistic for me to pursue
any of the postgraduate jobs or studies that my peers are doing. With this in
mind, I started looking through my university’s summer internship programme,
hoping that this would help me gauge what I might physically manage and,
importantly, what I might enjoy.
Because of Covid-19, many of the internships
were now remote, so at least some of the obstacles (travelling and office
environments) had been removed. It quickly became clear, though, that the
workload for most of these positions would still be too high for me to reliably
or realistically meet what was expected of the intern. Then I found Patchwork
never heard of ‘flexible working’ before but I immediately recognised it as
exactly what I have at university and exactly what I would need in any future
employment. I was amazed to find that the exact problems I was facing had been
recognised and were articulated in the company description. A “one-stop shop for somebody whose personal
circumstances prevent them working a conventional 9 to 5 office job”. This was
me! This was exactly what I need! I could not believe that a company existed to
improve the very situation I found myself in.
been working as an intern with Patchwork Hub for about a month now. Researching
articles and resources has opened my eyes to the world of flexible working,
which is much more wide-reaching than I had first thought. Parents, the
retired, carers, anyone looking for a better work-life balance need the
conventional way of work to be reformed and need the services I am helping to
part of something so worthwhile and so needed has hugely improved my self-confidence,
which had otherwise been knocked by chronic illness. And it is encouraging to
learn that I am not the only one looking for an alternative form of employment!
The more research I do for the company, the more I see that there are
opportunities out there for anyone looking for greater flexibility. For
example, I now know that freelance work might be a possibility for me after I
graduate, something which I was nervous about before because of the
unpredictability of my health. But with a company like Rev.com, I could
translate and transcribe audio files, thereby using my German degree, while
letting them do all the promotion and job-searching, allowing me to simply
choose from their list of what is on offer.
new knowledge of alternative employment possibilities and online resources
means that I am finally looking forward to the future again. Patchwork Hub has
taught me so much about how I might proceed after I graduate, but more
importantly it has shown me that I am not alone in my need for greater
flexibility. It is this element of community and support which has meant more
to me than the job prospects. I now have role models of people working with
illness and an assurance that this is possible. I am so grateful to Patchwork
Hub for facilitating widespread change to the workplace, and, importantly,
uniting those who need this change. It has made me feel excited both for my
future and for the future of work as a whole!
you, Patchwork Hub, for giving me hope again.