Article by Wendy McCance
There has been something on my mind this week that I would like to address. I have been wanting to write about autoimmune disease and working. Having an autoimmune disease (fibromyalgia) really has an impact on your life. My personal experience has been of trying to adjust my lifestyle in a way that will allow me to enjoy my life without pushing myself to hard. It’s really a ridiculous statement. I want to feel invincible. Being able to do what you would like with friends, family, activities and so on is much more difficult and downright frustrating when you have health issues. I would give anything to be able to take on any project I would like without having to consider my health.
Fibromyalgia wears me down. If I spend the day really cleaning the house the way I’d like (for instance), I pay for it that night and sometimes for a few days after. I end up in a lot of pain and feel wiped out. It feels like you have the flu. Your body aches and is too sensitive to touch. Your exhaustion is like someone who hasn’t slept in days. Not a fun feeling. An all day outing with friends can trigger this reaction. Spending a day in the sun can do a number on me as well.
This brings me to the topic of working. Working is difficult without a delicate balance of knowing how much you can take. I have come to realize that I can’t sit for eight hours. My body tightens up and I end up in horrible pain. If I were to do physical activities as part of my job, it can’t be too strenuous or for too much of my day. Standing all day isn’t any better.
The economy is awful right now and finding any job is a challenge. What does a person do when finding a job is tricky and trying to accommodate a health issue makes job prospects much tougher? What I have found is that there are a few things I can do to make my chances of having a successful working life possible. Here is a look at what I needed to consider as I looked to find employment.
1. Can’t stand or sit for long periods of time (several hours).
2. Being in hot temperatures triggers symptoms
3. Flexibility is needed in case I have a bad day. I need to be able to take care of my health without worry of losing a job.
4. I need a career not a job. I don’t want to make $10.00 an hr. for the rest of my life.
5. I have children and need some flexibility around important events in their life.
6. It would be nice to actually find a career that I have an interest in.
It is true that not all of the above items have to do with my health. I want to give you an accurate picture of all of the things that are important to me and were contemplated. The last few items aren’t as important as the first few, but if I want to be happy, content and look forward to work, these items are truly important.
So taking everything into consideration, I chose real estate. I won’t be standing or sitting for incredibly long hours. I can tailor my time around my health to some extent. This also works in my favor when it comes to my kids. I have the possibility of making a good living. I won’t have to stress about needing a nap or starting my day a little later if needed.
This last week was the ultimate test of how badly I wanted this career. I had a one week class for my pre-licensure for real estate. The hours were 9-5pm Monday-Friday. I spoke with the teacher ahead of time to let her know that I would possibly need to get up and stretch my legs every now and then. She was remarkably understanding and said she had health issues to and could relate. I sat next to a side door so that if I got up, I wouldn’t disturb the class. I’d also like to note that there were several people in this class that had health issues that limited them. I was so surprised and at the same time, it was comforting to me.
After school, I had to study like I never have before. I would come home and sometimes take a nap before jumping into my studying. Every night as I came into the house I looked like I had been run over by a bus. I was dragging and in pain and it sucked. My wonderful husband took over the cooking, cleaning and taking care of the kids so I could put all of my effort into this crazy busy week. My naps would last an hour or two. When I got up I would study until midnight and then go to sleep. I would be up each day around 6am to get the kids ready for school and then go to school myself. I did it, barely. I passed the final exam.
Over the weekend, I crashed, hard. I haven’t been able to sleep because I am so overly tired and hurt so much. Even so, I can tell you that it was worth it. Now I have to study for the state exam so that I can get my license and start my job.
I have come to realize that you can’t let an illness get in the way of your life. I am determined to be a success. I won’t let this dreadful ailment get the best of me. It terrifies me that it could ruin my life if I don’t push myself and stay stubborn about having what I want in life.
My message here is that things happen in people’s lives that aren’t fair and make life rough. Your challenge is in deciding how much your health issue will rule your life. Health problems are like horrible bullies that continuously knock you down. Cry it out if you need to. Shake out the frustration and then get mad. Learn to push it around and take over your life. Decide what works and what doesn’t and find a way to make the necessary changes. Much easier said than done, but I hope that the words in this post can inspire you or someone you know in this predicament to find the strength to make life as close to everything it can be.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]
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