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Helen Nightingale enjoyed a highly successful career as a clinical psychologist in the NHS for 20 years, and was promoted to management level, but when she developed severe chronic migraines, she decided to ‘jump before being pushed’ out of her job.Even when my colleagues saw me injecting myself with the migraine drug Sumatriptan, nobody took my condition seriously.‘I have just been diagnosed with Type I diabetes,’ says Vanessa*, 37, ‘and I’m finding it really hard to manage my blood sugar levels.I feel rotten but I’m terrified to tell anyone at work, because I’m part of a competitive sales team.TV reporter Jane Taylor remembers being terrified of how her mainly male co-workers would react when a car accident kept her in hospital for a month.‘But having confided by e-mail that I felt terrible about letting them down, I was amazed when they made regular after-work trips to the hospital to keep me up-to-date with what was happening at work – though they put no pressure on me to come back before I was ready.Mowlam, an ambitious politician, clearly believed that she could do the front bench job, and held it from 1997 to 1999, although her doctor warned her that her condition could cloud her judgment.

A campaign by the charity Rethink saw high-profile figures including Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax speak openly about their depression, and made an impact in terms of highlighting awareness, but the social stigma persists.My husband says I should take unpaid leave but we can’t afford it financially, and emotionally I need the routine of work or I’ll go to pieces.’As we are encouraged to stay in our jobs longer, an ageing workforce carries with it all sorts of health implications.According to the Department for Work and Pensions, 5.9 million workers in Britain currently have long-standing health conditions, and a study by Bupa has estimated that by the year 2030 the number of British workers with chronic conditions such as diabetes will rise above four million.Now I’m a private practitioner in the same field and if I’m ill, I simply rearrange appointments.’Someone who decides, however, to keep quiet about an illness may end up fooling only themselves.If your boss, for instance, remains tight-lipped when he or she is clearly unwell and disappearing from the office for days at a time, you and other staff are bound to realise something is wrong.When I called in sick because I couldn’t make it out of my front door, I was met with irritation rather than concern.‘When colleagues had had babies I’d covered their maternity leave without a second thought, but that attitude wasn’t reciprocated.

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