The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiences to inspire us all to change for the better.
My name is Petrice Koutsis. I’m a Partnerships Manager at UM, an avid reader, lover of coffee and big fan of my dog. I’m the disability rep on the MFA DE&I Advisory Council and I live with chronic pain, which has a disabling impact on my daily life.
Chronic illness is there even if you don’t see it
Chronic illnesses don’t just “go away” overnight. It’s something you live with daily. I may come into the office looking my normal self, chirpy and talkative, however what my colleagues don’t see is the internal battle I am having with myself every day.
Living with chronic pain, you tend to get used to the pain, so you tend to portray yourself as being perfectly fine. This doesn’t mean I’m suddenly better; it just means I’m used to living with it.
I’ve gotten some great accommodations at work, such as flexibility to come into the office when I can, having a car park on certain days, and being able to take breaks when needed.
However, I still feel the stigma of having these accommodations when I can portray myself to not look sick at all. The vibes of: “But she looks fine today, why does she need that?”
A big part about having a chronic illness is maintaining your energy levels, not overdoing it or pushing yourself too hard into a flare. By having these accommodations, even on days I do feel good, it helps me to not push myself too far into said flare.
I’d recommend reading Show Me Where It Hurts by Kylie Maslen to really get a personal understanding of what it’s like to live with chronic illness.
My advice to others who may battle with invisible disability
Nobody will know you need accommodations or are struggling unless you tell them. If it helps you to do your job to the best of your ability, then the best thing to do is speak up about it.
At the end of the day, we all just want to put out good work, and if you need certain changes to do your best work, then you need to ask for them.
It’s scary at first, being vulnerable, but it’s worth it to feel recognised and valued.
Petrice Koutsis is Partnerships Manager at UM Brisbane
To broaden your understanding of DE&I, complete the SBS Core Inclusion course – Australia’s leading online DE&I training course – available for free to MFA member employees. Access ends December 2023.