Disability History Month - But You Look Okay?!

2021-12-07 -
Array, ASLEF
Amy Nicholson sits in an office in front of a notice board. She is wearing a uniform jacket, which has ASLEF badges pinned to the front, and a high-visibility vest

To mark Disability History Month, ASLEF members are sharing their stories.

Amy Nicholson shares her experience of hidden disability.

 

Everyone struggles with their own battles. It is a fact of life. Some struggle more than others.

I have been working on the railway since 2005; fresh out of university. Young, spritely and full of energy, it was my dream to become a train driver. However, just a few years into the role, I started to become very unwell.

After years of referrals, periods of sickness and the frustration of regularly working on light duties, I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I have learned to manage this debilitating condition, however I accept that there will be times when it cannot be controlled. As a result, I find it an ongoing battle to remain in the grade.

I have faced problems at work due to lack of understanding and empathy, mainly because the condition cannot be seen, and I have good days and bad days. There has been limited support, and I know the consequences of this only too well – the deterioration of my mental health.

It is a well-known fact, supported by a lot of research, that the hours that we work, as train drivers and shift workers, have a negative impact on our health generally. I feel that we are still far from perfecting adequate support for those with hidden disabilities.

I also discovered that I have autism, but I’ll save that one for another blog!

Through my experience, I also have a deep interest in cab ergonomics. Years of poor ergonomics on an aging fleet has exacerbated my condition. When I spend long hours driving, I often suffer for many days afterwards.  Consequently, I have reduced my working hours. It was an extremely tough decision to make.

I hope by raising awareness of hidden conditions such as fibromyalgia, our workplace will be improved to keep people working in the jobs they love, thus also improving our mental health and work-life balance.

It is never easy, but we are fighters at heart! 

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UK Disability History Month takes place from 18 November - 18 December.