I was at a holiday party and after explaining what I do to someone I’d just met, I got this question: “Aren’t people with chronic illness a depressing bunch to work with - especially around their careers?”
Hmm. That took me by surprise. I replied, “No”, not bothering to explain that I have chronic illnesses.
But I found myself wondering why the stories I hear don’t leave me in despair. Don’t get me wrong. I feel sad when I hear that a CI is making it impossible for a person to work in any meaningful way.
But that’s the thing. So many things make life difficult and CI is rarely the only the culprit for a person’s sense of failure or despair.
As the events of the past year have shown us, life is a lot of things but it’s not fair. It’s chock full of challenges, disappointment and hard times. Most people have some bad luck and make bad choices and some have more than their share of both.
“… had just finished reading a chapter in a NYT bestselling book on wellness that says that repressed emotions cause illness. After I got angry (no repressing emotion here), I thought about how stress makes my symptoms worse which made me think that maybe the writer was right after all. Darn it. Sometimes it seems that having a chronic illness can never just be about the bad luck of having a chronic illness.”
Here’s my thought on this: We can get stuck in our heads for any number of reasons! But you have to be careful not to live life as if every step can lead to more illness — or you’ll never get out of bed!
On the other hand, it’s easy to think that CI is the root of every bad event in your life. A client faces bankruptcy and losing everything she owns if she can’t find a job. Yes, she has a CI that kept her out of work for a year. And although she’s been well enough to work for the last two years and has spent a lot of energy looking for work, she’s unemployed.
But that’s not the only thing that got her here:
She’s 58 years old and has only worked in an industry that values youth - she faces ageism.
Although she lives in a state with high unemployment rate before the “recession” hit. she’s chosen not to move.
Although skilled and well-educated, her skills don’t neatly fit a job category making it difficult for recruiters to place her easily and often over qualified for many jobs that are available.
Bad luck, bad choices. But who knew at the time? She’s miserable about her situation for good reason. And in fact, she really didn’t do anything “wrong” to get to this place. But she’s going to drown if she doesn’t grab a life jacket and find some hope.
Chronic illness always makes life more difficult. But you have to be careful that you don’t attribute all your bad luck to it. Why? Because then you feel hopeless. And the only leverage point to improve the situation is the one which you can’t impact - your health.
I’m old enough to know that not everything turns out for the best. And not every cloud has a silver lining. But if we stop hoping then there’s nothing left. I’m a sucker for sustaining hope.