I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis back in 2012.
I’d been working for Hotel Chocolat since I was 16 and I was building my career.
Little did I know how much of a struggle I would find it holding down a full-time job while suffering from a chronic illness, which, I suppose, is full time too.
I had no idea what was happening to me. I’d accepted a promotion at work and I was on holiday with my family, which will undoubtedly go down as one of the worst holidays of my life.
I barely left the room, I was in pain, constantly going to the toilet and losing a lot of blood.
All of this coincided with me start my new role as Assistant Manager. But I’d worked so hard to get to where I was and I wasn’t ready to cave in.
Each day was unpredictable, at the time, I hadn’t even been diagnosed and my appearance was changing, I was dropping weight rapidly, I’d even been asked if I was eating anything at all.
It all happened pretty quickly, I just remember constantly running to the toilet and I had a few occasions where I didn’t quite make it in time.
Accidents do happen, unfortunately.
I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t exactly been easy trying to hold down a full-time job, there are times when I’ve wanted to give up, resign and concentrate on my health.
No day is the same, working anywhere poses a challenge but working in retail can sometimes be physically and mentally draining.
I’ve been pretty lucky in the respect that when I’ve needed to be hospitalised or attend an urgent appointment everyone has been understanding and gone out of their way to help me.
I can usually manage some of the symptoms like the constant urgency, leaky bum etc but it’s the fatigue that hits me the hardest.
I wouldn’t be able to manage as well as I do if it wasn’t for the understanding of my work colleagues both past and present.
Sometimes they haven’t truly understood the complex nature of the disease but it can be incredibly hard to understand when you don’t have any experience of it.
I’m approaching my first year of store management and it hasn’t been easy but I wasn’t willing to let my disease ruin my career.
I have the most understanding and incredible team behind me and for that I am truly thankful.
I genuinely wouldn’t be able to do it without them.
Hotel Chocolat isn’t just a job for me it’s a family!
Words by James Conlon