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 — Rosalind@ciCoach.com. Let’s talk about what you can do to create your best possible work life.