by Lauren Hislop Click a chapter link (right) to follow this story from the beginning. The dream of attending a work place each day ended with the reality of being a contractor and working from home. While freedom to earn money arose from being a contractor, it came at a cost to my wellbeing. I was offered a few hours of research work . I was so excited. I was contracted to produce a literature review relating to disability service providers. Being extremely passionate about disability issues, I immersed myself in the project. Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived as it took a long time to acquire my next paid position. During this time of unemployment I volunteered at Connectability, an organisation which assists people with complex disabilities, mainly intellectual, to access social activities. My first role was as a ‘spotter’. A spotter is someone who watches clients in a hydro pool and alerts authorities if clients are experiencing difficulty. I genuinely don’t know how productive I was, however, it allowed me to venture out of my house. Rather than staring at my stark four walls, I was thrust into a vibrant environment. I relished the interactions I had with co-workers and clients, it diverted my attention from the reality of my employment situation. I also volunteered with Community Disability Alliance Hunter (CDAH) by serving on the board of management. During my time at CDAH, I networked with various people. As a result I gained contract work in differing tasks, such as research, writing and assisting in social media. Working from home as a contractor enabled my creativity to soar. However it also was a recipe for overworking. I was my own worst enemy, tying myself to my pc without having a morsel to eat all day. My partner often came home to an overtired, famished and irritable woman. My hair would be in disarray and there were deep, dark bags beneath my eyes. I was an empty shell. My perfectionism would rear its ugly head as though I had an addiction. I couldn’t stop. My next high was my next project. I never considered that my tendency to burn the candle at both ends might result in me being unintentionally exploited. One woman, let’s call her Jenny, contracted me for a few months. She paid me for three hours a week. Consumed by my need to be a perfectionist, I would work more hours unpaid. This would backfire as at the close of each week, I would be physically and emotionally spent. Riddled with the fear of being inadequate, I would be chained to the key board until the wee hours of the morning. Whilst my neighbours nestled in their beds, my lit monitor would illuminate my room. The sound of my fingers tapping unendingly on the keyboard was piercing the night’s silence. This directly affected my health but I was obsessed. I must do it perfectly. Due to my over commitment to my paid work, I stopped my voluntary work which exacerbated my isolation. Throughout the months, Jenny would ask me to work more for no extra pay. Initially I was eager to comply, like a enthusiastic young puppy desperately seeking approval from my master, but as my workload increased, I became more exhausted. This placed a strain on my physical and mental health as my partner would routinely return home to a wild beast waiting to prance at any comment perceived to be directed at him. Dudley said this overworking had to stop. Noticing the exasperation on his face, I knew he was right. I had to open the discussion with Jenny, conveying that I would need remuneration for the extra work. I Skyped her from my kitchen table, gently informing her that the extra work consumed more time and requested remuneration for my extra effort and time. Suddenly her eyes were veiled by a fiery rage. ‘I don’t have extra money to pay you. Why can’t you do this?’ she barked in a belligerent tone, resulting me in cowering in the shadows. I tried to change her perspective but as a new contractor, I wasn’t versed in negotiating. I felt as though I was on an uneven footing. Not having an employment consultant, I was on my own and I was burning out. This was having a detrimental impact on my health as well and resulted in having more painful discussions with her, ending each chat with me struggling to deter my tear duct from activating. Early one morning, I felt as though a wild crazy person was stabbing me with a knife in the abdomen. After undergoing tests, I was eventually diagnosed with a fecal impact. Ultimately, my health contributed to my decision to resign from this position. Although I could use the money, the toll it placed upon my mental and physical health exceeded the financial gain I received from it. In order for me to sustain work I was aware that I needed a work-life balance. However I did not know how to achieve this. I needed the assistance of an independent consultant to guide me. Miraculously the NDIS granted me funding for employment support. Was this a dream? Was I able to use the services of independent consultants for employment services? YES! I was put in touch with a woman named Lou who worked for an organisation called Response. Lou looked at my credentials. Her deep brown eyes sparkled with enthusiasm as she announced she had a position for me involving writing and research for 2-3 hours per week. My body pulsated, I could hardly contain my excitement. Not only was I offered work, Lou started to teach me the fundamentals of achieving a work/life balance. My life was back on track!