The Truth About Working With Chronic Illness

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The Truth About Working With Chronic Illness

Every day is a battle between your body and mind. Each day you wake up, you never know who will win.

If you suffer from chronic illness, you may struggle to get through a workday.

People may even believe that just because you work full time, it means your chronic conditions are less severe than others'.

Working doesn’t mean you're more physically able to do things than someone else with chronic conditions. This is an unfortunate daily fight for people with these illnesses.

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I also suffer from chronic illness, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told I must not be that “sick” because I'm able to work full time and "if it were serious, you wouldn’t be able to do that."

I’ve experienced being a full-time employee with multiple chronic conditions that leave me feeling as if every day is a battle with my body on whether or not it feels like functioning.

For starters, the quality of life I experience on a day-to-day basis is minimal. There are times (more often than I would like) when the literal act of waking up is exhausting.

There are times when I’m physically unable to wake up, get up, and stay up.

Whether or not your place of employment is flexible with you makes all the difference. For me, rules are rules, and there is no excuse to call in sick any earlier or later than the designated times laid out in the policy manual.

Because of these policies, I have been disciplined for not abiding by them, despite medical documentation indicating I'm unable to follow them for reasons related to my medical conditions.

Have you ever experienced discrimination due to a disabling condition? How do you know if your manager is just following the rules, or if they're being discriminatory on the basis of your disability? And how do you prove that?

Is my manager going to have yet another meeting with me regarding my absences, despite the thousands of notes and documentation from medical professionals and specialists?

Does anyone in management even believe I have these conditions to the severity of each one? How can I explain the symptoms of my conditions in a way my manager will understand?

Am I going to be disciplined because some of my work is late due to my frequent absences? Am I going to get in trouble for having to leave early tomorrow for a doctor's appointment?

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This is what goes through my head upon waking up every single day. And those questions just scratch the surface of what I have to ask myself and worry about when it comes to my employer and my job.

All of this goes on in my head when my feet haven’t even touched the ground.

I have to ask myself a million questions to prepare for what might happen, due to past experiences and being disciplined becasue of the severity of my conditions.

I have to get dressed and all that before leaving the house. On top of that, I have to commute to work on a train, so I have to know the weather, how to dress, the lows and highs for the day, just so that I could make it to work.

It’s truly astounding how little say medical professionals get when it comes to health needs and accommodations patients need, whether it be employers or insurance companies.

So really, a person's subjective complaints or lack of them regarding their chronic illness hold more weight than the experts who treat those conditions and results of objective medical testing you've undergone.

For me, the actual job isn’t a problem. For over a year now, I’ve been punished for my medical conditions and flareups I have no control over, discriminated against for my disabling conditions, and dealing with a hostile work environment that causes me anxiety every day I leave for work until my workday is over.

So, if anyone believes that those of us who work full or part time have conditions that aren’t severe or that we don’t have functional limitations because we work those jobs, you’re wrong.

Personally, the battle for me is from the time I wake up until the moment I sit down at my desk. This period is the most debilitating and not the essential function of my job.

The other part of this never-ending battle is having to prove your conditions exist and produce severe symptoms because they aren’t visible to the naked eye.

And even when you do everything in your power to prove that and give hundreds of pages of medical evidence, you’re still not believed and still face the very real fear of being discriminated against because of your conditions.

Don’t be so quick to judge someone else because they have a different life than you. It’s a struggle every day to get up and go to work, and I’m lucky if I make it a whole five-day work week.

I’m sure others can relate. Think before you speak to someone’s health.

I’m sure many of you didn’t appreciate or like when people didn’t believe you that something is wrong. So, don’t do that to someone else.

Just because you may not feel able to work does not mean other's conditions are less severe than yours. It doesn’t mean that their symptoms can’t possibly be at the level you experience symptoms.

We’re all human. Many of us are struggling with chronic illness. Instead of assuming, replace your judgments with love and care.

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Brittney Lindstrom is a licensed professional counselor and certified rehabilitation counselor.

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