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Disability Narratives

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Video clip: Verity explains the benefit of having a manager who was approachable and had built a relationship helped her seek help in a timely way.

But yeah, I think having a manager who's approachable is helpful. And I think that's about being approachable the whole time. So not just when you're ill, but having a reasonable relationship, where you can talk to them about what's going on with your work. Maybe sometimes have a conversation about what's going on at home, or what you did at the weekend, things like that, so you get to know them as a person rather than just as somebody who's looking after your work, and then who you have to go to when things are difficult and you're struggling. It's harder to do it then, I would think.

We talked a little bit about having conversations with line managers about problems. And I think the one thing that comes up is the point at which you have a conversation with your line manager. So obviously that was something that came up for me, when I moved jobs, is that I had this long term health condition. The very fact of getting a new job would make me feel a whole lot better. But I suppose there was potential for it to come back. As it has. So it was quite important to me to be clear from the start. Particularly knowing about things like the Equality Act and stuff. It's also easier to have a conversation when you're feeling well, rather than when you're really, really struggling.

So I ended - before I started the job I ended up asking if I could go in and have a cup of coffee with my line manager, under the pretext of seeing where the office was, which I hadn't seen. Working out where to go for the first day, and stuff. And then I forced myself to brave raising the subject. It's not really something you want to say, is it, "And by the way, the new member of staff that you've just hired has a long term health condition, and that might make them not very good at their job." [Laughing]. Fortunately for me, because we'd had the SAD lamp ordered, she said she'd already guessed that there was something.

Mmm. Okay. And her reaction, was?

She said, she said that it was more normal than I would think. Well I already knew that it's quite normal for people in the university to have mental health problems, because I'd been managing people with mental health problems before. So she was reasonably reassuring. But it's still a conversation you don't want to have with someone.

Sometimes just being prodded to go to your GP is helpful. So when I was unwell in August, I had made contact with my GP and we had a plan, and if the plan didn't work I was supposed to get back in touch with them. And so then I was talking to my line manager, and we agreed that the plan hadn't worked, and I'd not got back in touch with them. So I was told very firmly that you do need to get in touch with your GP [laughing]. And I did actually need to hear that. Because I don't like to waste the GP's time. So it's sometimes helpful to have an external perspective.