Work and Diabetes

Anybody on Social Security Disability here? I have been out of work due to my Brittle diabetes for a year now...coupled with the anxiety and depression that comes along with it..I have run out of temp. SDI....I've been encouraged by family and friends to swallow my pride and apply for SSI...Until now I have not been ready to take the step of feeling disabled BUT any job I apply for sees me as a liability (Yes, I know that is illegal) but they do it.....I've ALWAYS I'm at home, which is great but I feel completely useless at times....My default is optimism so this feeling of hopelessness and uselessness is overwhelming. Anybody have some insight on the Disability or offer me any advice on getting to the next step in my life while my diabetes flip flops? Thank for listening!

Hi Ree. I wouldn't think to advise you on whether to apply for SSI or not, because I don't know your full medical and mental health situation. I can say that if you feel you can't work and need SSI, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

What I know is that everyone whether disabled or not, need to feel useful and that they live a meaningful life. Whether you decide to work (full or part time) or not, you can find things that do this for you, and it's important for you to do so! Dealing with D is difficult enough without having things to balance it and give us satisfaction. Some ideas? Consider volunteer work. I've supervised volunteers and there is an entirely different attitude when someone is volunteering vs getting paid. You are grateful to have them and if, for example, they can't make it in a certain day or have to leave early that's ok. There are so many different type organizations you can volunteer for! Consider taking courses at your local community college. You don't have to aim for a degree but take things for the sheer pleasure of learning. You can get aid to pay your fees and even books. What about hobbies? All those things we love to do but never have the time and energy for when we work full time. Find the things you like and are good at. If you like physical things, that can only help your D! Most of all, don't isolate. I tend to be an isolator; I like my own company but can go too far. Join a club or group. Find a Type 1 group (too bad you're not in the Bay Area where I started an amazing type 1 women's group!). Contact the JDRF in your area; it really helps to talk with people who understand, especially since you are struggling with your D. Or join a group just for fun and companionship: hikers, yoga, book club - whatever. Make your life full of good things, not just struggle. The effect on your mood and your well-being will snowball.

Zoe, as always, offers excellent advice.

The only thing I'd add to that is looking into work-at-home possibilities/opportunities. There's a ton of options in the US market, ranging from stuffing envelopes (probably the worst) to professional contracting or permanent employee tasks if you have profession skills.

Some sort of job where you can work in a home office sounds ideal for someone with BD. Close to whatever you need to manage it as effectively as possible, easy to take a break and simply cope when you have an episode, etc. If you haven't explored this possibility with some vigor, you might give it a shot.

Also, perhaps some fellow TuD'ers have some specific concrete suggestions to explore in this direction. I wish I could be more helpful, but all my knowledge in this space is second/third hand.

Former HR here..

Are you providing information about your health prior to hiring, in the application or hiring process? You have no legal reasons to provide information about any health issues. It should never be a part of any interview or hiring decision.

I suggest you go overboard to get your T1 better. I don't like the brittle term. It was used years and years ago when insulin and therapy was archaic and is no longer relevant with all the technological advances. If you are without insurance, check into sources for MDI with Lantus and a rapid sort term insulin. Seems to me that is step one.

And, be careful what you say on a job ap or in an interview. I taught corporate leadership for many years. They cannot ask questions, or insinuate health questions. If they ask those, carefully avoid them. Once you are hired, tell them the details. It is totally OK. You need to work. There are protections under ADA--reasonable accommodations. Not fun, but understanding your rights is essential. And, reasonable accommodations for a diabetic are easier than many other disabilities.

Spock offers up good information too.

reasonable accommodations for a diabetic are easier than many other disabilities

So easy, that it seems jerk-ish when managers or others hassle PWDs over these minor accommodations.

There are, maybe, half a dozen "things" that a PWD might ask for as a "reasonable accommodation", but in the end it mostly boils down to allowances for BG testing and injecting insulin. Making any kind of stink about that seems to me to be a character issue with the complainer, not any sort of actual burden of any sort on the company, manager, or coworkers.

Just my 2c.

HR Executive here. The thing is, during application process any potential employer is allowed to ask any potential employee if he/she can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. So, one can either decide to disclose or not disclose a 'disability'...and just having type 1 diabetes doesn't make it a disability. If one chooses to not disclose 'said disability' and he/she are unable to perform the essential functions of the job, because he/she didn't have a reasonable accommodation needed, potential employer has the right to take disciplinary action or terminate employment. If that happens, one cannot claim the employer discriminated against you because you have a disability. And to suggest an employer doesn't discriminate...please we all judge whether we're hiring potential talent or not, I've hired and terminated people for over 15 years...partnering with hiring managers, typically we want the best and brightest for our teams..but hey, if someone doesn't like you, for whatever reason, maybe you have pink hair, you're not getting hired. Employers discrimiate all the time, it's just life. they don't outwardly say it..but it happens all the time. Many states are 'at will' so not cause is needed when terminating an employee either. I believe, also, a reasonable accommodation in terms of management of type 1 impacts an exempt vs. a non-exempt employee differently.

well, there's a thin line here...once an employee is hired, employer can indeed ask nature of disability, often times they'll ask for medical documentation and documentation from employee's medical team regarding actual accommodation, same thing with FMLA, an employer CAN ask what the medical leave is for, requesting actual documentation from a doctor.

Thanks, Cinderfella. I appreciate your support.

"Can you perform the essential functions of the job?" YES. Just because I have T1 does not mean I cannot do what is required. It is not necessary to lay the entirety of T1 on the table at an interview to be hired. Once hired, my requirements for accommodations have included access to a refrigerator, a place to keep emergency supplies, and a drawer to squirrel away juice boxes and an understanding of how to handle an emergency. Some highly structured jobs are not conducive to T1 work without strategic work on the accommodation requirements. I would have access to medical documentation, although, after 52 years od T1, I have never needed anything for employment.

I resist the entire idea that I am less than normal because I am T1.

I have provided health info. after case they need to know what to do should something happen.....I have had people ask what my medic alert bracelet is for and I tell them. After I am hired I see the concerned look and I've been told by others that I am a risk.

Thank you everyone for your input and advice. I really appreciate it.

I'm wondering Ree if you say more than you need to. In my desire to be completely honest and forthright I've realized that at times I say more than I need to. Employers, no matter how nice and caring they are as people, unfortunately consider the overall needs of the organization. If someone appears to be an extreme liability than they feel it may not be worth it. I know that's cold and not the way things should be.

In order not to raise those red flags you might say something along the lines of what I always tell the students in my classes."I just want you to know that I'm a Type 1 diabetic. What that means for you is that there may be a time when I have to stop and test my blood sugar and perhaps munch on some glucose tablets. If it is really low I may have to call a break, but that is not likely." Now, my class only meets twice a week for an hour and a 1/4 so that reduces the odds of something happening and you do mention having problems with control. So maybe your statement would be a little different, but basically you want to be reassuring that you know what to do and it is unlikely you will need help, but if this happens and you are unresponsive they should call 911. Personally I wouldn't talk about somebody giving you a shot of glucogon (unless you work in a medical setting) because that is asking too much. If you later develop a close friend there, maybe you can ask them.

I also agree with the others that "brittle" is a very old term and that you should consider working with an endo, cde, reading Using Insulin and getting counseling for the mental health issues. I know it's a lot to think about, but you need to do what you can to get that A1C down. If being on disability for awhile enables you to do that, than that's a good thing.

I'm not on meds for depression or anxiety.....all that is stemming from the fact that I am frustrated and discouraged and exhausted but am determined to tackle this.....I get down and depressed from the constant monitoring....the expense....the non stop watching....I chase my highs because of the fear of lows...I don't eat enough...I don't bolus, I get starvation ketones....This is just so frustrating but it is what it is....I agree with everything you have said and I appreciate your really helps to give me some perspective. Thank you! :)

:) Thank you!

Very helpful...I appreciate your input. This disease just gets so frustrating sometimes.....yes we all judge and I understand that completely...I had a great job and I LOVED a Design Consultant....I was hired on the spot...they couldn't get me in there fast bosses loved my creativity and enthusiasm...I love the whole environment and the influx of day I was asked about my medic alert bracelet...I explained I was diabetic and that I always have my provisions on me...not to worry...the air around there changed and I was treated differently and eventually they eliminated the position claiming they weren't able to employ a full time consultant...I would probably have believed that if it hadn't been for a coworker who clued me in on what was up....they felt I was a liability and didn't want to hurt my feelings.....this was my experience....

Thank you! I do have great insurance and it pays for everything including my CGM. I appreciate all the advice on this subject as I had been starting to feel crippled up and hopeless, and I'm NOT! Thank you again!

exactly, there are type 1's all around the world who work and are successful and thriving in every type of workplace (surgeons, olympics, etc..), never needing a 'reasonable accommodation'. just test blood sugars, carry supplies and do their jobs.

Thank you Sarah.....I live in California....a mountain community near Yosemite. :)

he's in Los Angeles, I'll ask if he knows of anyone close to your area. :)