‘I am so sorry’ I half sob down the phone. ‘I hate doing this, I really do’. At the other end of the phone is my boss getting the call for the 2nd or 3rd time this month that I cannot make it into the office today. Luckily I have a very understanding employer and I am never lead to believe there is any anger there when I am unable to work. Still I feel it myself, I curse my broken body and wish I could just be well enough to make it into work.
Before I could even legally work I had already been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Naively as a teenager I couldn’t imagine why or how this illness would affect my career or my working life.
I was always going to be something or someone, I always wanted a career as a teacher, a writer, in marketing or PR. I was the weirdo who enjoyed school work and thoroughly believed that boredom should be classed as a form of torture.
I never stopped for a minute and thought how hard it would be to work for me. Even when I was missing school because I couldn’t physically get out of bed. I always assumed it would get better at least better enough for me to hold down a job.
It has improved from when I was 15, but I can have a flare up at any time and for a number of days or even weeks. Some days I can work through it others I simply can’t. It is not the way I wish it was. I envy those who call in sick once in a blue moon or have the option to ‘pull a sickie’.
I wake up some mornings and wish I could feel fulfilled by a life in at home, now work just me and Philip and Holly or Jeremy Kyle and the other stars of day time TV to keep me company. That’s just not me.
I remember when a friend a couple of years younger than me was finishing exams and I asked what he’d like to do once he was finished. He answered ‘Go on the dole.’. I was so jealous of his lack of ambition in that moment. I wish I could be content in boredom and living off social welfare. I wished my only ambition was a lack of ambition.
Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of people who cannot work I was one of them for some time. However I think people have the wrong idea about us who are chronically ill. We want to work, we want to have high flying careers and climb the career ladder.
We don’t want to call in sick time and time again each time feeling guilty, anxious and unsure as to how your colleagues and employer must feel.
We want to be a success either keeping the job and status we had before we were ill or gaining that despite the fact we are ill. We are fighters and it is only when we are physically and mentally unable that we won’t work. Won’t is the wrong word can’t is what it is.
The frustration of knowing that on a good day you can rock your job, you are on top of everything and you are willing and able to work your butt of. But on the bad days your mind can do all that is needed but your body doesn’t want to corporate.
I am lucky to have the Boss I do, I am sure it is frustrating for him too but he would never let me know. Not everyone shares my good fortune. Still, then I would look to other jobs, to alternatives to a more understanding employer or taking a break until you are well enough.
Please don’t lose your ambitions even if you are too sick to work now, that may not always be the case. Don’t give up on your dreams, hopes and ambitions…..but tailor them. Recognises that it may take you longer, it may be a harder road you have to travel but that will make you all the more successful when you get there.
That is what I have to believe to get through it. Today is a bad day, tomorrow I might take over the world. Keep going. Your chronic illness won’t give up and neither should you.