a woman being blocked by a big hand from entering the work space

Sickle Cell & Workplace Discrimination

When I graduated from university, I knew that I would need to get a job that would help me to sustain myself.

Post-university plans

The initial plan was to have enough income to support my living costs, whilst still maintaining my art on the side and hopefully working towards doing my poetry full-time/ becoming a freelancer.

Finding a teaching job

I had a lot of issues trying to find an arts job and I knew I wouldn’t thrive in an office setting, I wanted to get a job that would still allow me to utilize my social skills, so I decided to sign up for a teaching agency that would send me out to different schools to work either short term or long term as a teaching assistant.

Dealing with health-based discrimination

I found that when I was doing this work I would often be discriminated against due to my health, they would often ask me to do things that required a lot of physical exertion such as walking around the school all day and chasing after other students who had been expelled from classes or things which required me to be exposed to cold environments such as working with nursery kids outside all day or ask me to cover long break duties.

If I confronted a member of staff and told them that I can’t stand outside in the cold for too long and do long playground duties or if I asked for more breaks during the day due to having a dip in energy and suffering from really bad fatigue, then they would often think that I'm making excuses, even though they were very much aware of my condition and how much of a hard worker I really was.

Losing my job

Two schools actually canceled my long-term placement with them and used my sickle cell as the main reason for letting me go, even though I had barely taken any sick days off or anything, this was the breaking point for me.

After a while I had realized that the judgment and discrimination that I was facing in these spaces had so much of a negative impact on not only my physical health but on my mental health also. It was actually causing me more stress and triggering me to experience more pain.

The breaking point

It got to a point where I realized that this is not worth it. I can’t keep putting myself through this, no one should have to face discrimination at work for a chronic illness which they didn’t even ask for, and that's when I decided to put an end to experiencing these feelings once and for all and leave the agency.

Adjusting to COVID-19

Lockdown gave me time to think and reflect since I was labeled by the government as extremely vulnerable and considered at high risk for COVID-19. I was advised to only work from home which meant I had more time to focus on my art and my health. Since then I have never looked back and don’t intend on doing so.

Happier and healthier

I have actually found that I am a lot happier, a lot healthier and have established a lot more peace of mind working from home in a nonjudgmental space in which I can control my environment. Don’t get me wrong there are still some days when I feel very fatigued, struggle with motivation, and have difficulty finding my own structure and pace.

I have found a lot of joy and freedom in working on my first recorded poetry project and doing advocacy work as they are two passions of mine that actually nurture my mind, body, and soul rather than working against it.

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