In the early years of  living with auto immune diseases,  I  felt completely out of step with people my age.  I had more in common with my  grandparents  and their friends than other 20 and 30 somethings.

At 29 and married one month,  I was  bedridden and lost vision in one eye (multiple sclerosis).  That was our first year of married life.   Over the following decades,  I worried on a daily basis about how symptoms would affect me and left more than one good job because I couldn’t keep up.

Parenting was no easier.  Sure, all the moms in the baby group were tired but my exhaustion was endless and seemed different.  Over the years, my kids’ activities and the physical work required left me in a puddle.

I listened with envy as friends talked with supreme confidence about their plans and activities.  They had no doubts that they could physically accomplish what they set out to do.  I had no such belief and it was very lonely.

Now at 61,  I’m in step with my age group.  It’s common to talk with friends and colleagues about health losses and setbacks.  They discuss retirement and I’m delighted to be able to keep working.

But when I talk with my younger clients (in their 20’s & 30’s),  I’m reminded of  how hard it is to not have the one thing that everyone  associates with youth:  good health.   It pains me that there are so few resources for young people who live with a chronic health condition, whether it be pain, fatigue or some disabling symptom that demands attention with nothing but heartache in return.    Being young and unwell too often leaves you feeling hopeless because you haven’t had the chance to see what you can do in this life.

So what’s the answer?  Here’s my take on this.

  • If you’re young, looking ahead to building your future, and living with a chronic health condition that’s hurting your chances of continuing to work, do something about it now.  Don’t wait until you’ve spent years under employed or unemployed.
  • If you’ve  got the training and skills for a job but can’t do that job because of your health,  there are other opportunities.  How can you use those skills and apply them in a setting that is more amenable to your health needs?
  • If you haven’t gotten specific training or skills,  put your focus on a career plan.  This involves careful self assessment,  research and goal setting.  It takes time, patience and determination.

It’s harder than ever to get and keep decent jobs in this economy. You can’t afford to coast, waiting for the next job to show up as your friends might.  You have to be as employable as possible to maximize your opportunities.  Even if you feel  ‘older’ than anyone you hang out with, you can still be that person who sees what’s possible.

This all adds up to the most important question:  What’s it going to take for you to think differently about your situation so you can improve it.

If you’re  ‘young’ and struggling with work and career and want to know more about how I can help you improve your situation, send me an email —  Let’s talk about what you can do to create your best possible work life.






5 Responses to “3 career building ideas if you’re young with health problems”  

  1. 1 Joan Friedlander

    Rosalind, a young family member of mine (23 years old) is just this year is dealing with the shock of her second flare from Crohn’s Disease. She got well remarkably fast after a few months of “what the heck is this? and I think she felt it would not be a threat to her career. Now she is less confident. I was not as as young when I first became ill with Crohn’s. I was 36. That was hard enough.

    The 3 questions you asked are pertinent and helpful. I think that there are many opportunities these days and the trick is thinking outside the traditional employment box, and then identifying the companies and options for earning a living. The world is moving in this direction, sloowwwlllyy but surely.

  2. 2 Helena

    I couldn’t agree with you more Rosalind! Years ago, I was a busy young professional traveling all over the U.S. in my marketing job for an insurance company. Symptoms from my progressive muscular dystrophy were minimal at the time but I knew it was only a matter of time before they caught up to me. I made the decision to keep working full-time while I started a master’s program in counseling at night. It wasn’t easy but I made it through and have never looked back. Today, I am able to make my own hours and do the kind of work I love without compromising my health in the process. Thanks for your blog. It’s a terrific resource!

  3. 3 Rosalind

    Thanks, Joan. In my experience with too many diseases and syndromes — and working with so many people who live with this, too — you have to know that you just have no idea about your future. But you can be as emotionally and mentally prepared as possible. These 3 questions are the tip of the iceberg, don’t you think? Your book does a good job in going deeper into what a person needs to consider once you’re well enough to think about employment.

  4. 4 Rosalind

    You’re one of the lucky ones, Helena, because you had the capacity to think ahead without fear and plan for that. It’s the cornerstone for resilient response. Thanks for sharing.

  5. 5 1285 muscle

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