For reasons I’ll explain in an upcoming blog, I currently find myself searching for a new job again.
Running the gauntlet of recruitment agencies, job boards, employers, CVs, application forms and interviews is tricky at the best of times, but when you throw epilepsy into the mix it becomes that much harder.
I don’t mention on applications, unless specifically asked, that I have this medical condition. On some applications it’s really ambiguous – do you consider yourself to have a disability? No, I don’t, but I know if they see me have a seizure they will consider it a disability so I say yes. If the recruiters did their research it wouldn’t be too hard to find out – I have a blog about epilepsy, I tweet about it, I have written about the condition for my job several times.
Not to blow my own trumpet, but I never really struggle to get interviews, I have 17 years of experience in my chosen field and have worked for some leading companies. What I struggle with is converting those interviews into job offers.
Maybe it shows that I’m constantly terrified of having a seizure – even a small one would have me smiling like a lunatic for no reason and unable to talk for several seconds. Also my memory is appalling, whether it’s the condition or a side effect of the drugs who knows, but when I’m asked to give an example of something I’ve done in my career I suddenly seem to forget everything and end up giving the most irrelevant examples! And the same thing happens with words, it’s really hard to sound intelligent when you can’t find the right words or names, and sometimes the words come out in the wrong order!
To my knowledge, I’ve only had one of my big seizures in an interview situation once, it was with a recruitment agency, so it wasn’t the end of the world. In my opinion they didn’t handle it very well. When I have my biggest seizures I lose awareness and tend to repeat the same word over and over – usually “underneath, underneath, underneath”. That’s what I must have done, I came round to have a couple of women looking at me like I was crazy, saying “what are you talking about?” So I had to sit there and explain the situation, when all I wanted to do was run away and cry. I don’t think I heard from that particular agency again.
Obviously I could walk into every interview I have and announce my epilepsy straight away – “If I go a bit mental during the interview, don’t worry – I’m just having a seizure, I’ll be ok in a few minutes” – but I’m worried they will judge me immediately. I’m sure I’ve had interviews cut short because they’ve asked a question where I’ve had to let them know about the condition, for example the dreaded “do you drive?”.
It’s so frustrating, I know I’m good at my job – I wouldn’t have been able to do it for 17 years if I wasn’t. I wish I could do a day’s work for every potential employer, so I could be judged on that, rather than based on my performance in a room when I’m nervous and stressed.
In the meantime, all I can do is keep applying, keep going for interviews, and keep taking my medication!