Still Working – How I'm Coping Back at Work with My MS

Jamie Tripp Utitus
Written by
Jamie Tripp Utitus

Wow, I think my “back to work after five years” article is becoming more like a column. I have a follow up to share. It has been a little over a month since I have begun to teach again. In addition to writing and teaching I MUST remember that I am also a wife and a mum, a sister, a daughter, a friend etc., and lest we forget, a person living with MS. Coming back to a place of work has reminded me of two things.

1. Life itself is a job. Who is minding my life while I am here minding other people’s children?

2. People. I must re-learn to socialize and work with people.

My work life, since multiple sclerosis overtook my body, has been defined by little old me, in a ‘lil old house office, plucking away at a little old keyboard, alone. Sure I have interacted with people all over the world, but it is different through the lens of a monitor and a keyboard where I can censor what I say and, more importantly, erase the mistakes. Here I can step on toes, have disagreements and can’t simply hit the backspace key and delete.

But what I need now that I’m back to work is a lot more patience and love.

There’s a prudent place in my heart that is reluctantly telling me what the first month has been like, because I don’t want to scare anyone out of going back to work, outside the home. Don’t get me wrong, there are perks like steady paychecks. I am grateful for that check. I get to shower in the morning without someone opening the shower curtain because I am up and out while everyone is asleep.

But, there is this one minor detail that has thrown me off for the past month. I have multiple sclerosis and what others find to be simple tasks, simply aren’t SIMPLE to me. My body has been feeling it, screaming at me, kind of like a teen at their mom or dad. Why do I have to go? I love to come to work in a building with others, but my body does not.

I was trying to think of the one, most significant thing I have learned since returning to teaching. And this is it, but it is fastened to disclosure. So you really need to be a person who has disclosed their illness to understand the lesson I am sharing with you.

The greatest lesson I have learned is to speak, knowing your limitations. I tell my fellow teachers and bosses ahead of time of potential problems, or things that worry me like field trips, or going outside for gym class where the teachers participate in the class with the students.

Stay tuned for next month’s update…we all know, by definition of our disease…these things can change in a blink of an eye!

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