Working with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

I’ve fallen off the face of the cyber earth a bit, because I’ve just started working full time again *shudder*.  So while I can’t claim to be a dutiful NaBloPoMo or NHPBM participant anymore, there was a prompt last week that was relevant to my employment development, so I’d like to write about that today.

First Day on the Job
Working with a chronic illness can be a difficult balance. What should you divulge, what should you hold back, and how do you balance it all? Do you have advice for others?

I’ve worked and studied full time with CFS before. This has gone from fairly well to fairly disastrous. While studying full time has caused its’ fair share of blunders and stress, I never felt as guilty over my academics as I did over work. If I didn’t finish an essay on time, or failed an exam, I was the only one it affected. I was also incredibly lucky to have (mostly ) understanding teachers and professors who would often make exception for me and allow me to hand in assignments late, and write exams outside of the normal hours.   However, working is a different story. If I can’t complete something on time,  or have brain fog the day of a big presentation, it’s not just something that can be re-arranged, I’m letting down my entire team.

It took me several months in my last full time position, which I left over a year ago to travel and seek more unconventional work options, to realize that my team would probably make it without me. I hadn’t told them about CFS, yet they were often more understanding towards me than I was towards myself. As long as I remained a constant communicator, having to finish something late, or skip out on a meeting, could all be accommodated for.

Starting full time work again brings up mixed emotions. On the one hand; relief, I have been struggling with money, and living in a new city where I don’t know very many people and don’t have support networks. Working full time means I don’t have to worry about having enough to pay rent or buy food. Money stress is difficult to cope with, and I felt (and can still feel) the effects that stress were having on my health. However, working brings on a whole new form of stress. Will I be able to complete my work to a satisfactory level? Will I survive the long hours? Will the crowded commute slowly claim my sanity?

sleep, fatigue, work, job,

Will this be me all week?

We are often harder on ourselves than we are on others, so I am trying a new coping strategy; giving myself the advice I would give to someone that I love.  I thought through what I would say to someone else in my situation to support and nurture them:

Nothing matters as much as your health. In 10 years, will you remember that you were 10 minutes late to work one time, or that a co-worker made a snarky comment about a project you completed? Or will you remember your health? Was it a time of filled with energy and new opportunities, or did you fall into a stress cycle that you can still feel the effects of? Take the time you need to re-adjust to a working lifestyle, but also know that it is only temporary. You can quit this job, you can move on to new opportunities, you can create your own work that fills you with energy and inspiration. Don’t dwell on the negative possibilities, focus on living a full and thoughtful life- take opportunities when they come, but don’t sacrifice your health for temporary success.

Are you, or have you worked full or part-time with illness? How did you cope with all the stresses that come along with work? 

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8 thoughts on “Working with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  1. I worked full time at a preschool with fibro until the end of may (we were laid off for the summer and during that time I quit). I deeply hated my workplace because there was an overwhelming amount of responsibilities and I developed my fibro symptoms lat November. How did I survive through the school year? I stayed cheery and optimistic (even though I cried when I got home because the stupid place drained me of my energy!). I’m hoping to find something where I can work at home. I can agree that money stressors are difficult to deal with. Best wishes for your new job and being able to balance out working and your health! 🙂

    • Trying very hard to stay cheery and optimistic 🙂 I just left you a note on your blog about this as well- but try elance.com (or similar sites) Myself and a few friends have all gotten good work from there (even if it doesn’t pay as well as most office jobs)

  2. I haven’t had to work outside the home since getting ill. Sometimes I think I could and then other days it takes everything I have to do the daily mom stuff. I hope your transition back to working goes well. I like you idea of giving yourself advice as you would another person. I’ll have to give that a try next time I’m being hard on myself!

  3. I appreciated that advice, thank you.
    I’m slowly returning to work and since I became ill suddenly while working there everyone knows about my illness and it can only be good for everyone if I talk about (when they ask or when it is appropriate).
    Keep us updated on how you are going at work, I’m interested to hear!

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