Resilience, my key to success – Alice’s story

by Elise Milburn - over 1 year ago


“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars” Khalil Gibran 

The Beginning 

Every recruiter will have their own definition of what resilience means to them; some people are born with a strong backbone, often, it is shaped and moulded by life and our experiences. I was diagnosed with Endometriosis at the age of 14: this is a chronic pain condition that has no known cause or cure. It stopped my education; I was in hospital every two weeks for opiate pain relief and it was a very scary and isolating time. Despite it being the most common gynaecological disease (as common as breast cancer and diabetes! ) no one my age knew what it was, I didn’t know of anyone else with it, my body was like a constant prison of pain and I had no hope of a quick cure or hope of things improving. I was reading blogs by women with Endo who had had their careers, marriages and life ruined by the condition.

Rock bottom certainly is where character and resilience is formed in my opinion, I had a choice at 14 to become a victim or to push back and not let the condition win twice – I decided my motivator was that if ‘it’ was going to steal freedoms from me like being without pain, being able to go to school and have normal teenage years, it sure as hell would not steal my happiness, my ambition, my will and my fight.

The Middle

This experience has been invaluable to my career as a recruiter and for life in general. The adult lesson that I learnt very early on was that when you are at your rock bottom, it is no one else’s responsibility but your own to fight your way out and find a win. The lifelong and incurable impacts felt like a death sentence. No one else can carry your pain or your hurt for you.  There are so many things both in life and recruitment that are out of our control, but the amazing thing is that how we respond to them is not! To quote Viktor Frankl, how we respond in any given situation is indeed ‘the last of human freedoms’ and a very powerful thought. Furthermore, having something large and out of your control can give you an excellent sense of ‘the bigger picture’. In order to maintain focus as consultants, we must keep many plates spinning and not get distracted and lose sight of the end goal. With my bi-weekly hospital trips as a teen, I got used to seeing kids who are younger than I was with life threatening conditions… having a clear perspective can often enable pure focus as trivia does not get in the way. 

Since being diagnosed; I have made sacrifices, sitting my GSCEs and A-Levels with just over a total of 1 years presentism (as well as later completing a BSc). And I have had highs; I became a Young Ambassador to the charity Endometriosis UK, and I have had meetings in Parliament with Cabernet Members and have achieved legislative change, successfully introducing Menstrual Wellbeing to the PSHE curriculum to end the silence and isolation that I felt as well as educate a generation .

The Continued…

More recently, I have transferred internally to one of Oscar’s US offices, Austin, Texas from our Manchester HQ. There was a time when I thought I would never be well enough to move away to university…. Now I am living and working on a different continent. I look back on my decade of Endometriosis and am so grateful that I had an ‘early’ diagnosis of only two years. I don’t know of any young business women in my network who are open and honest about this condition… although being as 1 in 10 women have it, I am sure you are out there. I am here for you, lets fly the flag together. 

Having an open office culture where my managers are approachable and supportive has made my life so much easier, so thank you Oscar! Being an ambassador for Endometriosis in my workplace and industry is something I am extremely proud of and can only hope my story will encourage individuals and companies to look at this condition in a different way!

Our next steps as a society are to create Endometriosis Friendly Employers: https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/endometriosis-friendly-employer-schemeFor every 10 women in your office, statistically there will be 1 with Endometriosis. Times are changing and taboos are easing; luckily, I work for a company that have been incredibly supportive and embody everything it means to be an Endometriosis Friendly Employer. Understanding that I need regular hospital/ acupuncture appointments, recognising that I will never have 100% attendance and by creating an open environment, has enabled me to work hard and strive to achieve the career goals I want. 

It takes resilience and discipline to succeed where failure is the easy option, but the payoff is worth it. It took me years to be able to speak with strength about my experience without tears, 14-year-old me would not have been able to take on Parliament and it is still a constant negotiation. Resilience means different things at different stages of our lives. Reliance even means different things to the people of our businesses; from a consultant in their first billing month, to the CEO, to our colleagues having to chase overdue invoices… It is essential to being successful but not something that can be taught. It can be found in the most unlikely of places: 14-year-old me just happened to harvest the potential for a positive and productive outcome, finding purpose in what I can do rather than what I can’t…. 


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