I’ve been writing about working while living with chronic illness for more than 10 years. People ask me how I come up with topics? Really?
Think about it. When was the last time you found a character in a book, play, movie or t.v. show who was dealing with chronic health challenges? This is fertile, untapped territory. Really.
I’m not talking about dying or death here. That’s dramatic, finite and although a very painful topic, it is much easier for people to get their arms around. That can make it a good topic for a story. But chronic bad health? Dreary, wears people out and no closure. Where’s the story line here?
I’ve been in a ‘phase’ with symptoms rearing their ugly heads and new medical problems popping up. In times like this, my body doesn’t request, it demands my time and attention. The phone calls, appointments, procedures and self care are time consuming and draining.
And as I faced this yet again, the light bulb again illuminated the message loud and clear for me:
WORK MATTERS and WORK CAN HEAL (your sorry body)
What do I mean? It’s actually more obvious than you’d think. We’re almost trained to complain about work. But when your body, the source of your pain and struggle, is letting you down, work can be one place where you can continue to feel good about yourself because you have something to offer the world. Or as a client said to me recently, “When I work, I don’t just feel like a slug.”
Over the past months, I got to the point where talking to family and friends about my health status wore me out more. I felt like a broken record and it was boring even me. This is always a confusing and isolating place in which to be and many of my clients talk about it with sadness. How do you connect with people without discussing what’s really going on? Yet you have nothing really new to say. It’s hard to break this cycle.
When I’m working — on the phone with clients , developing project work and writing- – I’m neither confused nor sad. I’m a productive person with useful ideas. Even if I’m not at my best (and I’m clearly not at my peak performance at these times), good enough can be a reasonable standard. Let’s face it – – few perform at their best all the time and often with less of a good reason
But this can only happen if the work you do allows you the flexibility you need to manage your health. And, you’re not feeling pulled in every direction and worrying you’re letting everyone down. In today’s workplace, everyone feels pulled and driven and there’s little slack.
As I write this, I know that I am among the fortunate. I can afford to be self employed and I can afford good health insurance.
I just returned from my 2nd outpatient procedure in two weeks and I’m living with a stimulator implant. I feel grateful:
- That there is this device that allows me to live more easily and might prevent future illness.
- That I have insurance that pays for this expensive procedure.
- That I have a supportive husband, children, siblings and other family and close friends that are there for me.
- That I have work that allows me to maintain this erratic schedule and, most of all, sustains me.
But as I say this, I’m thinking about those who don’t have these options. I not here to improve healthcare or insurance options. But I have hope that in time, people living with chronic health challenges like mine will have more options than choosing to work for themselves or to not work at all. Maybe I’m foolish.
I need a nap. But before I go, do you have ideas for work that has this kind of flexibility? My clients look for ideas for work they can do.