What happens when you’ve left the workforce because of chronically, debilitating symptoms and you think you’re ready to get back in?
Most likely, you feel stuck, confused and at a loss for where to start. If you’re worried there’s something wrong with you and everyone else can figure this out, forget it. You’re not alone! It’s an all too common problem when you’re living with chronic illness, regardless of your age. A few years ago, Jenni Grover, ChronicBabe, interviewed me for a book she was writing. We talked about that and other challenges that we and so many others face when you want to work in some capacity but don’t fit into a neat box.
A big shout out to Jenni! She just published her book, ChronicBabe 101: How to Craft an Incredible Life Beyond Illness, which includes not only our interview, but it’s chock full of ideas and interviews on topics related to this life.
From my years of knowing Jenni, I can safely say that we share the notion that there’s nothing neat or simple about living with chronic illness that unpredictably and periodically puts your energy, performance and your life on hold. But here’s the thing: We can’t control this bus — but we can take charge of those parts we can influence.
Here are some snippets of my interview from her book, ChronicBabe 101: How to Craft an Incredible Life Beyond Illness.
Jenni: “….Do you have a suggestion for a first step for someone who’s looking to get back into work?”
Rosalind: “… Everyone’s situation is unique to them. …Think about not just your illness…or where you were before but think about what your life is about right now.Who depends on you? How is this going to impact you and the people around you? It helps to create a framework for what’s going to make the most sense. It’s often pretty frightening to take that step and to leave unemployment for employment when you’re living with illness, and often what we’re most afraid of: disappointing the people around us if we might not be able to hold on.”
Jenni: ” One of the biggest challenges is that many of us can’t do the job we used to be able to do, but we’re not sure what we want to do! It’s valuable to take a step back and say, What do I want to do with myself now? Do you have a favorite exercise that you have people do? “
Rosalind: “In the Keep Working with Chronic Illness Workbook, I have a series of exercises, and the first thing is to look at what you used to do and think about it in terms of skills that you’ve got. … Take out an old resume and look at what you did in that job. … These are the things I have done; these are the skills I used and I know how to do.”
“The next step is to look at your needs and wants…. What if you can’t do it on your own? You can brainstorm it with other people. Include everything…. if <you’re> still stuck, I have this exercise on networking… <using> this brainstorming exercise.”
Jenni: “You mentioned resumes, and that’s a question I hear a lot: when we go back into the workforce, and we’re interviewing, how do we explain those gaps on our resume?”
Rosalind: “The thing to remember is, there’s no right answer <here I gave several examples of different approaches> … So, how do you explain it? That gets down to what’s most comfortable to you. There are people who are just not comfortable with saying what really happened. And there are people who are not comfortable not saying what’s going on and why they chose to stop working…. There is always the caveat that, yes, if someone has to choose between someone who has been sick for four years and someone who hasn’t…, they are probably going to choose the one who hasn’t been sick…. If you’re struggling with this, think of other ways to describe why you might have stopped working…You definitely want to be sure you are prepared with your answer.”
Jenni: “It seems like you suggest it’s really about comfort level.”
Rosalind: “Yes, and that’s where I do a lot of coaching <on this topic> because you have to know what’s going to feel comfortable to you to talk about, and what a way you can explain it so that you are not lying …. There are so many factors to think about”
Jenni: “My dream, when I was younger, was to be an investigative reporter and travel the world… I feel like I didn’t give up on my dream; my dream just looks a little different.Instead of thinking about it as a job title, ….I thought of it as what I wanted to get from that type of work and get that somewhere else.”
Rosalind: “….you just talked about not being resigned… Resignation is not acceptance. Accepting what is, is what we have to do. But often, that transforms into resignation. I’m resigned to this, and with that is a defeatist attitude, a victim’s attitude, powerlessness. Often, as we think about the past, it can look either better than it actually was or worse, so what we need to do is look to the future without fear and just think in terms of What makes me happy.”
Portions of ChronicBabe 101: How to Craft an Incredible Life Beyond Illness are produced with permission from the author.
Listen to the podcast of the entire interview
PURCHASE ChronicBabe 101: How to Craft an Incredible Life Beyond Illness – and nope, I don’t get any of the profit/affiliate links or anything from promoting this. I just think it’s a great resource!