Like many people living with HIV, I work full-time. I worked before my diagnosis and I’ve continued to work since my diagnosis, and nothing much has changed.
I have had no major health problems which have impacted on my ability to work. I was diagnosed 14 years ago, at a time when there were a number of treatment options and HIV was (and is) a manageable condition.
Through a mix of luck and hard work, I’ve been relatively successful in my career. I now find myself working in a senior role in a high-profile, global company. I work long hours, can be away from home for days or weeks at a time, and my work schedule often interferes with my social life. But I like it, and I get an immense amount of satisfaction from my job. My work is interesting and intellectually challenging, I get to travel to places I wouldn’t otherwise go to, and I get to work with a diverse group of people.
I realise I’m pretty lucky that my health has not impacted on my ability to work, and I’m also pretty lucky that I’ve found a way to work and live with HIV and other chronic health conditions, and do well. It’s not always easy, but here are a few things I’ve realised keep me going:
I like my job. I like what I do and I get a lot of satisfaction from my work, and that’s good for my mental health, and good for my health generally. Late nights in the office and eating bad food might cancel out some of that good stuff, but on balance I think I come out ahead.
I know how to take care of myself – physically and emotionally. I’m very aware of my health and the impact of stress on my health, and I know my limits. I get tired, but I know when to rest, when to take time off. I know when to say ‘no more’. I’ve even learnt to meditate. And I’m not sure I’d be so aware of my health if HIV hadn’t come into my life.
I’m pretty resilient. Receiving an HIV diagnosis, living with HIV and other chronic health conditions, dealing with issues which impact on our health and our life in a very real way – they all challenge us. But we cope, and we can use that resilience to our advantage. Major deadlines or a cranky boss are a walk in the park compared to some stuff we deal with.
Perspective. I know what’s important to me, and what’s not, and I try not to let the small stuff bother me. The world will not end if I don’t meet a deadline.
I’ve realised that there’s no such thing as work/life balance. Work is part of life, and I try to fit work around the other parts of my life. If I work on the weekend I’ll take some time out during the week. If I need to be at a medical appointment then I’ll do it in work time and make it up later.
I’ve limited my options to some extent. Even though I’ve been relatively successful, I’ve passed over work opportunities and promotions because I knew it wouldn’t be good for me or my health. But I have learnt to accept that’s part of the deal of living with a chronic health condition, and I’m now ok with that.
I know I could live and work another way, but at this point in time I’m happy with the way things are. I sometimes think about giving up work and moving to the country, living an easier life, and I suspect I’d be much more relaxed if I did. But I’d be missing out on the good stuff, and I’m not convinced I’d be happier as a man of leisure.