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!
http://www.audioacrobat.com/email/EsB7cqp6F Defintion PA-TIENT: Someone who is receiving needed professional services that are directed by a licensed practitioner of the healing arts toward maintenance, improvement or protection of health or lessening of illness, disability or pain. (US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) If you’re healthy, it’s unlikely that you spend time thinking about what beingRead More
Listen to the podcast ‘It’s a very slow process – two steps forward, one step back – but I’m inching in the right direction’. director Rob Reiner on change I was working my body and brain as hard as I could when she said, “That’s it, Rosalind. You’re using your core toRead More
I know that this post is overdue. It should have been here days ago. But I feel horrible and it’s not because it’s cold and raining hard on a July day when it should be hot and sunny. It’s because of the (bleep) gastritis, a recent add-on to my body’s long list of thingsRead More
This is a GUEST POST, written by Nate Broughton, one of the founders of Eligibility.com, a free resource for Americans seeking easy-to-understand information about government benefit programs. Even in the best of times, with a low jobless rate, a flawless resume, the right amount of experience and perfect health, searching for a job isn’t easy. Read More
It was a beautiful, hot August day in 1979, when I lost vision in one eye and couldn’t lift my body. After several years of vague neurological symptoms, I had a diagnosis: Multiple Sclerosis. I was lucky. It took a few months but I got my sight and energy back fully and could return to work and life as I’d known it.Read More
Can you relate to this? “Sarah (her 12 year old daughter) is so angry with me. She doesn’t understand why I don’t go to her weeknight basketball games, like every other parent. Or why I don’t willingly spend hours with her at the mall each weekend. I’ve told her I can’t physically do that stuff. I want to spend time with her butRead More
Normal. It’s become a ‘buzz word’ in political discussion. I’ve heard it used frequently over the past 2 decades in my work with people who live with chronic illness. But this new context has led me to wonder about what it means and how does it impact our view of ourselves and our lives? When do weRead More
Does it seem like everyone you know is able bodied and able to consistently ‘show up’? Do you feel helpless and maybe even a little sorry for yourself because you can’t attend a ‘town hall’ or march with thousands? The emails pour in telling me how important my presence is at some rally or another. Those emailsRead More
There are times when listening to a client’s story brings on waves of sadness. In my coaching work, it’s usually not the story’s details but what it represents that gets to me. When my client told me that she’d taken a full time job, knowing that it could likely land her in the hospital again, I feltRead More
I didn’t think that this blog was the place to talk about my very strong feelings about the results of the November U.S. election. And since I’m not comfortable avoiding the elephant in the room, I’ve chosen to remain silent. But two things have happened that lead me to post this today, Inauguration Day: theRead More
A colleague emailed that she’d been quite sick lately. “It’s the chronic stuff … old and familiar. Unfortunately it doesn’t get emotionally easier or less frightening as years go by. It surprises me how the chronic still sends me reeling- – after all this time and experience with it!” I was surprised. She’d never spoken ofRead More
For the past 24 hours, all of my conversation and emails have touched on (and sometimes consumed) the surprising U.S. election results. This includes friends and family, clients and colleagues, social media friends, even people I passed in contact briefly. They’ve shared this in common: reactions that vary from despair and depression, shock and fear, bewilderment. Obviously, thereRead More
I get frequent inquiries about RTW (returning to work) after receiving SSA (social security administration) disability benefits. So I’m happy to share an article written by the ‘Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Help’. If this is of interest, read on and be sure to pass it on to anyone whom you think might be interested.Read More
A mutual colleague introduced us, writing in his email, “You should know each other.” When I looked at Bob Cafaro’s website and learned about his experience and his book, “When the Music Stopped: My Battle and Victory against MS”, I understood why. This guy was deeply involved with what illness does to the body and the spirit. Yet, I’veRead More
ciCoach Founder, Rosalind Joffe, is hosting a Reddit AMA today at 11:00am ET Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) is a free chatroom where reddit.com users (fyi: you must create a reddit account to be a user) can ask Rosalind questions on any relevant topic. She will respond with her thoughts and what she has learned, basedRead More
We are so excited for tomorrow’s event. Hope to connect with you at Rosalind Lerner Joffe‘s first “Ask Me Anything!” ciCoach Founder, Rosalind Joffe, will host a Reddit AMA Wednesday, September 21st at 11:00am ET Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) is a free chatroom where reddit.com users (fyi: you must create a reddit account toRead More
ciCoach Founder, Rosalind Joffe, will host a Reddit AMA on Wednesday, September 21st at 11:00am EST! An AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) is a free, live, open-source interview where reddit.com users can ask Rosalind her thoughts and learn from her personal experience in living with multiple chronic illnesses and coaching clients living with chronic illness. RSVP soRead More
For most of us living with a debilitating chronic health condition, talking about it is one of the most difficult parts of this life. I’ve written frequently on this topic from various angles and was excited when I came across this headline in a recent issue of Money, ” What to say at work if you’re dealing with a serious chronic illness.” But asRead More
An AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) is a free, live, open-source interview where reddit.com users can ask Rosalind her thoughts and learn from her personal experience in living with multiple chronic illnesses and coaching clients living with chronic illness. RSVP so you can join our international conversation… Click “create an account” at the top right corner of reddit.com Make a username and passwordRead More
What happens when you discover a ‘silver lining’, a source of light within the devastation that debilitating and difficult health brings? Are you grateful that you’ve found some source of satisfaction? Do you second guess whether you’re as ill as you think? Do you find yourself wondering about your real motivations? It’s easy to understand how you might getRead More
We Shall Overcome, the anthem of the American civil rights movement of the 1960’s and the worker’s movement of the 1930’s. Those words spoke to the idea that the forces of evil could be overcome, wiped out. Why, then, did The New York Times use these words in their headline, “Swimmer Kathleen Baker Overcomes Crohn’s Disease to Become anRead More
What kind of choice is that? Considering that 40% of Americans live with a chronic disease and close to 35% live with multiple chronic conditions, it’s one that too many face. If you’re a member of this ‘club’, it’s likely that you’ve experienced how draining it is to get the healthcare you need. It takes a toll on your capacity toRead More
This week I decided to put my focus toward noticing and I discovered 3 lessons . “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Lesson 1: Don’t be fooled into thinking that what works for you will work for the other guy (or girl). I downloaded a 3 minute guided meditation tape from U TubeRead More
I love Tina Turner’s What’s love got to do with it? Everything! You’d think this would be easy. She knows what she needs to be able to do her job. It won’t cost her employer a dime, impact anyone’s productivity or compromise her performance. Sounds like getting this should be a ‘no-brainer’, right? A medicalRead More