Having lived with Crohn’s Disease since the age of 16, Bethan is confident speaking openly about how her condition affects her. That’s why when she applied for her current job in Human Resources at the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust, she decided to be upfront about her condition as soon as possible.

“I feel that being honest right from the beginning establishes a good relationship with your managers. On the application form, there was a question about medical conditions, so I went into as much detail as I could about how Crohn’s Disease can impact my life: medication, hospital admissions, fatigue – everything! Going into my interview, I felt more comfortable knowing that they were fully aware of my condition.

Since starting my role here, there have been plenty of ups and downs. Whenever I’ve needed extra support, my manager has always made the time for us to chat about how she can help. She really understands that my condition can cause me to feel anxious sometimes, and she helps me to calmly sort out any issues when she sees that I’m feeling overwhelmed. Knowing that my management team are so incredibly understanding really helps to reduce that stress.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, Bethan has been working on a special team providing temporary accommodation to frontline healthcare workers. She loves doing such a vital job that helps others, but knows how important it is to look after herself too during this challenging time:

“Having to shield since March 2020 has been really difficult at times, and at the beginning I was really anxious about being clinically vulnerable to coronavirus. However, my manager has made working from home really easy, and she’s helped me to manage the increased anxiety. She always encourages me to take regular breaks and emphasises the importance of properly switching off after work. Although they’re dealing with a global pandemic too, I’ve never felt that my manager was too busy to check in on me. It’s so reassuring in what has been a really stressful time for all.

On the positive side, I think that lockdown has encouraged conversations that otherwise might not have taken place. I was under no obligation to explain to my colleagues why I was shielding, but I think it’s an invaluable opportunity to raise awareness of invisible illnesses. So I will happily explain to anyone that wants to listen!”

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