My name is Ruth, I am a nurse in the Occupational Health Unit, I am an Aunty, I like motorbikes, I also happen to have disabilities; I have enduring mental health problems, I wear hearing aids in both ears and I have Multiple Sclerosis- my sense of direction is also seriously disabled!
As a result of these disabilities I have been subject to ridicule, bullying, the withdrawal of training opportunities and the loss of jobs and people that I considered to be friends. I was recovering from a breakdown and thought I was unlikely to work again. I was introduced to the University’s Occupational Health Unit when a friend dragged me out with her. I was still very vulnerable and scared. When I was offered some work I had little choice but to take a deep breath and to tell my current line manager about my disabilities. I felt sick and shook when I told her how frightened I was that I may not cope. The day I was due to sign my substantive contract I burst into tears and couldn’t do it. That manager was still prepared to give me a chance.
I have found nothing but support from my manager and my colleagues. I have the specialist equipment that I need. There are days when my balance is off and my colleagues never complain about getting things off the high shelves for me. My hours have been changed to help me to manage fatigue and I have been supported when my mental health has meant that I need a shoulder to cry on. I have made some good friends.
Working for the University has brought me from severe depression at being unable to do the job I love and feeling that any job might be beyond me, to having the best job I have ever had. I have amazing colleagues and the most support I have ever had in the work place. This has come because everyone knows about my disabilities but does not define me by them. I am a person who happens to have disabilities and that is how I am seen by my colleagues, I am incredibly grateful to them. Finding the courage to declare that I have mental health problems, that I am deaf and that I have MS openly has changed my life for the better at work, and outside.
Ruth Wootton, Occupational Health Unit