I wish to articulate my availability as a chronically disabled person.
November 14, 2018 3:04 AM   Subscribe

I wish to articulate my apparent random availability as a chronically disabled person in a professional way.

Yes, you may ask. Basically, day to day, I have no control over when I can function and when I can't, mostly body but mind too. These s̶p̶o̶r̶k̶sspoons, they are random. On a good day, I can generally manage a limited list of going out and about errands; otherwise I am home either in bed or in desk chair.

What ways do you use to communicate your daily life needs when your body and your mind are failing you? Saying "I've been sick" on repeat isn't cutting it, and doesn't pay the bills of people that matter on the other end of the line. I need some tactics.
posted by Evilspork to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
In professional settings (which I’m not clear are the only ones you’re asking about, but you asked for “professionally”), I’ve used statements along the lines of “I have limited availability right now due to medical issues, but will get back to you as soon as I’m able [or “later this week”, “by next week”, etc. if commitment is possible]. If you need assistance sooner, please feel free to reach out to X [where X is someone who has the details and can provide at least interim help].” If necessary, this gets put into an auto-responder.

The level of detail, if any, given as to “medical issues” is very dependent on context, but a phrase like that should at least signal for most that something other than a short-term “sickness” is at play. Beyond that, what’s going on with my body and when it will be cooperative again is simply not the business of the vast majority of people contacting me.
posted by LadyInWaiting at 3:25 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Does "I have a chronic condition" / "due to a chronic condition" work for phrasing?
posted by freethefeet at 3:39 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


What type of professional setting? In the US at certain job settings you qualify for ADA accommodations. (Lots of info on this online and how to bring it up. I’m on mobile about to sleep.)

This also depends on your comfort on a personal level and the privilege you have with who you are telling. I cannot work and when it comes to other things I kinda don’t care anymore and say, “I’m disabled / chronically ill so I’ll have to reset this appointment (or whatever.)” Sometimes people are awkward but that’s on them, not me. It took me a long time to refer to myself as disabled but that gets across the need for access and accommodation to my physical impairments.

It’s not unprofessional to be disabled, chronically ill, or have an impairment. It’s not unprofessional to find a workable solution to those impairments.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:55 AM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


My apologies, this is just me wanting to sound professional when making excuses, not specifically job/ADA related.
posted by Evilspork at 5:11 AM on November 14, 2018


Saying "I've been sick" on repeat isn't cutting it

Do you not want the people in question to know that you have a chronic disability? Because if you don't care either way, is anything stopping you from saying "I have a chronic disability" rather than "I've been sick"?
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:15 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


"It took me a long time to refer to myself as disabled but that gets across the need for access and accommodation to my physical impairments."

Also, this is where I'm at lately, having used 'disabled' for a while, but only now grokking it internally.
posted by Evilspork at 5:18 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Do you not want the people in question to know that you have a chronic disability? Because if you don't care either way, is anything stopping you from saying "I have a chronic disability" rather than "I've been sick"?"

I am more looking for a pat line that people will understand instead of giving the quick life story thing.
posted by Evilspork at 5:22 AM on November 14, 2018


It's hard to get a good quick line in this culture, because republicans have gotten so much traction from their narrative about the bad disabled person who is faking it. I'd go with "I have disability issues" but it's likely that if your disability isn't visually obvious, people will ask. You can give short answers like "back trouble since the service" and then change the subject if you don't want people asking questions.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:39 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I've been practicing with being slightly more open about my own health limitations to head off any thoughts that I am flaky, and I've gotten good results with "I have a health condition that makes it difficult to commit sometimes."
posted by Automocar at 6:14 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


My general feeling is that the most “professional” way to handle this is not to mention health issues at all, which I think is stupid and inhuman but there you go. More specifically, this really depends on the context. Are these clients looking for in-person meetings? You can tell them that you’re based at home due to mobility issues and prefer phone meetings. Anyone looking for deliverables? Tell them you can get it done by X date, which is a date far enough in the future to ensure that you’ll have it done. If they ask for it earlier, you’re slammed/busy but you can get it in by the deadline. Client asking you to commit to something too far in advance? You have a few pending obligations and you’ll let them know your availability by X date. Boss/coworker asking your on-call/short term availability? You keep things flexible because your chronic health condition varies, and you don’t want to leave them in the lurch.

Tl;dr: Most people just want availability and to know when they’ll know. It’s okay to be busy, most people don’t care why, and it’s okay to have vague “other obligations” or to tell them that they can’t have an answer right away. Also, frame your non-answer as a favor: you don’t want to over-commit, that would be bad for them, too.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:34 AM on November 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


Also, re-frame this to yourself. Not being able to commit isn’t flaky. It’s professional and smart and thoughtful to tell people the truth about your availability. This is quadruple true if they’re not paying you a salary.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:36 AM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


Good lord, why can we not as a tribal people do better by people like you?

I would go for: "I'm waiting for surgery for a chronic medical condition," or "I'm sorry to cancel, I have an injury from my time in the service that is flaring up, but I expect I'll be able to..." and if they ask invasive questions just say "I don't like to talk about it, but thank you for caring."
posted by warriorqueen at 6:51 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


So from your blog you linked to and based on my workplace experience, it would be totally kosher to say, "I am sorry that my availability has been spotty. I've been dealing with a pretty serious back issue." To take it up a notch, I'd say, "I am sorry that my availability has been spotty. I have a chronic spinal problem that puts some pretty severe limits on what I can do each day. "

You shouldn't have to out the nature of your disability, but the fact that it's physical, affects a crucial part of your body, and is service-related means that specifically labeling it would probably get you a positive (or at least neutral) response. (At least in my professional circles!)
posted by whitewall at 7:19 AM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


I regret to say that I think Rock 'em Sock 'em is right.

looking for a pat line that people will understand

My experience has been that most won't, unless they've personally experienced something similar. (And even if they have, if they've since gotten better, they'll have forgotten about the nitty gritty details that complicate life. It's shitty, but it's a common survival mechanism. If people could really extend themselves empathetically, really appreciate how out-of-control injury or illness is, they'd live in a perpetual state of anxiety about their own vulnerability, about the same thing possibly happening to them. If they could remember distinct details about their own past experiences of pain, they'd have trouble moving on. So they block things out, or forget. Not their fault per se. Something to work around.)

Also, this is where I'm at lately, having used 'disabled' for a while, but only now grokking it internally.

I think, unfortunately, that it might be necessary to keep your personal understanding of your disability as disability separate from how you present yourself to clients/coworkers.

RESE's tips on negotiating time/availability with clients are great.

day to day, I have no control over when I can function and when I can't, mostly body but mind too.

I know what this is like. I'm also struggling with metering out my "spoons". I think it might help to work on this part (alongside processing the understanding you've got now), together with communicating/negotiating in the way RESE described.

I got some great answers wrt spoon measuring here (linking in case it's helpful).
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:01 PM on November 14, 2018


"I am sorry that my availability has been spotty. I've been dealing with a pretty serious back issue."

This is great, but IME will work 1-5 times before people forget or underestimate how and why such an experience can impact an expected outcome/deadline what have you and they will still get annoyed unless a solution or workaround is proposed, ideally in advance. So I think it's best to cut out the part they'd judge anyway and just offer the solution or workaround, per RESE.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:03 PM on November 14, 2018


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