I've been fretting about how to tell my employers about my arthritis since I started my job 6 months ago. I even struggled through a disastrous 10-pin bowling party to "welcome" the new hires (they couldn't have settled for 5-pin?). Everyone just thought I was an absolutely dreadful bowler; meanwhile, I was in serious pain and couldn't use my hands for days afterwards.
This morning, an email popped up in my inbox labelled "Golf!". My stomach immediately tied itself up in a knot. My fears were confirmed when I opened it up and began to read. Yes, I was being invited to join a golf team for a professional association we belong to. Great.
It appeared my hand was being forced. I sent a panicked email to someone who always gives me good professional advice, and was told just to be completely open about it. After all, they've seen that I always work hard and that I get the work done; arthritis doesn't affect my creativity or my writing ability.
So, I told my boss, and now he knows. It was the quickest, easiest, non-event ever. He asked me about it, then he said, "Oh well, we'll find someone else. But we'll have to get you a fun day off to make up for it!"
6 months of worrying for that. I guess that should probably teach me a lesson. When I think about disclosing illness, I worry about making other people feel awkward or sorry for me. I also worry about being made fun of.
This is pretty obviously a holdover from childhood. Kids can be mean. When I tried to take part in recess games or sports in gym class (I insisted on not being taken out of gym class - I just sat a lot of things out), I'd hear laughter and shouts of "Arthritis!"
Yeah... kids are mean, but not all that inventive.
I guess I haven't left that fear behind, even though logically I know the majority of adults are NOT going to make fun of me for having arthritis. They might feel a little weird, they might not understand it, but they probably won't taunt me as I walk by them in the hallway. I guess I have to give people more credit. Yes, they owe me their respect. But I also owe them my honesty.