How Chronic Illness Prepared Me for Losing My Livelihood

26 Mar

I’ve been pretty public about being out of work. (Read my article about it here.) It’s gotten me one job interview with a friend of a friend and a lot of ideas and suggestions, and it totally reminds me of how people respond to my chronic illness. In fact, I realize there are a lot of things I’m “used to” already about this whole coronavirus/unemployment thing because of what I’ve gone through being chronically ill.

Check out these parallels:

People’s little “solutions” to a big problem

I have such lovely friends who mean well and want me to be OK. So they’re sending me all these ideas and suggestions that just aren’t going to cut it. “Sign up for unemployment” (I’m ineligible because I was self-employed). “Go work at such-and-such” (the hourly rate won’t come close to covering my bills … or, I can’t lift heavy things … or, I can’t sit for long periods of time). “Get food stamps” (uh, but what about my mortgage?). “Call your mortgage company” (I did. They transferred me to 4 different departments and ultimately only offered a 30-day deferral on a late fee!).

It reminds me so much of “Try acupuncture,” “You should exercise more,” “Are you sure it’s not mold in your house?” and all the other small solutions to a very big problem that make me feel like you don’t understand how terrible and real this truly is.

But since I’ve experienced all this, I know to be patient. I know to acknowledge the sentiment and not let those disappointing feelings get to me.

A sudden, out-of-nowhere change to my life … that’s not my fault

OK, so I did trigger my fibromyalgia by working 3 jobs and being really stressed out, but I still didn’t choose to have this condition and many people can do the same without having a chronic illness for the rest of their lives.

It happened so fast, and before I knew it, my life was forever changed. And I never saw it coming.

That’s how it felt when all the colleges and schools suddenly shut down. I’ll never forget that week. It went from a news story about a respiratory illness outbreak in China to all of my speaking gigs being canceled. It wasn’t my fault, and I didn’t see it coming, and I don’t even know yet all the ways it’s changing my life.

But I’ve been dealt massive bad news before. I’ve had to start a new life several times before. I know what this looks like and I know I’m equipped to do it.

That Kumbaya crowd

Y’all know I’m a positive person. I do my best to look at the bright side and be optimistic. (Admittedly, sometimes I’m terrible at it.) But empty positivity can drive me nuts.

What’s empty positivity? It’s when you just say the words and your heart isn’t behind them. You’ve done zero emotional work to authenticate the words. You may even be kidding yourself and speaking the verbal version of a fake smile.

The best example of this is the “Well at least–” people.

(That’s on my list of what not to say to someone with a hidden disability, by the way, which you can read here.)

These are the people who hear your problem and sling out a one-liner that’s supposed to make you–or more likely them–feel better about things.

Well at least I’m used to this from being chronically ill and have a thick spot in my skin for it.

Anger at the ableds

This is often my biggest fight. It was something I had to work through when I first became ill. I was so resentful of people who could still do things I could no longer do … but didn’t.

I had to work through the ills of comparisons.

Similarly, I’m now getting really frustrated with people who still have jobs and are complaining about them. Or people who are complaining about things like sports being canceled. Y’all, my paycheck was canceled.

But I know that comparing their lives to mine, that setting their problems as competitors against mine, is a black hole that’s best avoided. Chronic illness and chronic pain taught me that.

Swimming in the memories

Because of my spine degeneration, I can’t run anymore. I loved running. I did get one 5K in before I discovered I actually need to listen to the doctors. While I’ll never run another 5K, I will always be someone who has run a 5K.

Chronic illness and chronic pain taught me a beautiful lesson that I’m putting to work constantly right now….

I’m looking for a job. I want to work. I will commit to whoever is awesome enough to hire

Because I have a sitting disability, I work on a comfy mattress. What "boss" would ever allow a bed in an office?

Because I have a sitting disability, I work on a comfy mattress. What “boss” would ever allow a bed in an office?

me, for a long time. But some day down the road, I would like to have again what I had: Being able to work out of a home office set up for my disabilities where the act of doing work doesn’t cause me pain. Having the flexibility to spend the day in bed when my fibromyalgia is downright terrible. Being able to travel, be on the road, stay in motels, go smell new things with my furry bestie, and get in front of thousands to help make their lives better.

I don’t have that anymore, but I’ll forever be the person who did.

My memories are permanent, and I visit them often and smile with broad gratitude.




3 thoughts on “How Chronic Illness Prepared Me for Losing My Livelihood

  1. Thank you for this article! I’ve been through all the layers you talked about regarding my health, and now I’m prepared for dealing with almost anything, as long as I remember to stop, think, and breathe before reacting. That’s all we can really control, anyway: our reaction to whatever we’re handed. I admire your spirit and determination and pray that lots of good things come out of this current crisis for all of us. Thank you for putting my thoughts and feelings into words!

  2. Pingback: What You're Feeling About COVID-19 Shutdowns is a Lot Like a Diagnosis - Christina Irene | Christina Irene

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