by Krissy Anderson
It is Sunday. I have a lot of pain today. Yes, in my body, but much more in my heart. I have a message, a mission and a corner I must turn.
How many of us who suffer with chronic pain and disease, and who have had to stop working, still carry the hope that one day we will be able to work at our careers again?
The Attitude: I Can Take on the World
I had this “attitude” when I was in business. My uncle called me a Rhinoceros (referring to the book that talks about business people who dive hard into big stuff and come out successful). I was thrilled with every client I had, thrilled with every project I did, and even though I never submitted my work for awards, some of my clients did, and I have a stack of national and international awards. My work was the ride of a lifetime. And perhaps one of the most wonderful things I had in my back pocket was my life plan. It didn’t include chronic illness and pain, it included that I would retire at 45, travel the world, do mission work and write books and articles about it, while working as a freelance journalist.
The best part of my ride was raising my kids during this same timeframe. I took them traveling, had my office in my home, and when I wasn’t traveling for business I was home when they got off the school bus. We had fun, grew together and I am so darned proud of them now for the wonderful, kind and upstanding adults they have become. Something went right. Love, happiness and enough pause in our lives to take in the earth and not rush. Life was good.
Still Grieving the Loss of My Career
My pain started coming on when I was in my 30’s and working hard. I tried to ignore it, but I was also getting chronic infections and some loss of mobility. After a great deal of doctoring, questions and not many answers, I was finally diagnosed with RA and Fibromyalgia. The Mayo Clinic said I had the worst case of Fibro they had seen yet, and I was one of the first to be put on disability in the country. As time has progressed, my illness has worsened, with CFS and other things that go with these diseases. My work just kept slowing over the years, and so did I.
There’s a colorful, illuminated corner in my brain that tightly and unrelentingly holds the very thought of hope for another career: the thrill of doing the work, the fantasy of sitting at the proverbial drawing board and the excitement of traveling from big city to big city presenting, selling and making clients feel happy and safe.
I still keep huge files of all the new marketing elements brought on by new technologies in a folder on my computer. I can’t seem to just clean house quite yet and let go of my career.
And yet I must.
New Questions for Me – New Answers for me: It’s Time to Move On
I pose the question, is it good to have hope, or does this mean I haven’t accepted my illness and my limitations after all these years?
I need to be reminded now and then why I don’t work anymore. I am simply not able to handle stress, pressure, big-thinking stuff and deadlines. But by being a prisoner of hope, I have been moving forward with ideas, my typical lists, writings, project sheets and more, only to have gotten excited about a potential project and forgetting my limitations.
Now I feel sick. The last of my big projects just isn’t going to happen.
The Problem: I Still Have that Attitude
This morning I woke with panic, thundering heart palpitations, tears flowing and scared out of my mind. I got a migraine, my pain level soared and I was a useless wet rag. I turned to the most recent monkey on my back and sobbed, “Help me, I can’t do this!”
“This” refers to a big project I assigned myself to a couple of weeks ago in which I have made big promises to new friends, began a timeline, started to write an outline of how we will assign leadership positions to people to handle the logistics, who we’ll need for what duties, what marketing elements are involved and how we will address and implement them, strong ideas for names and tags that draw the right attention, and more and more and more. My attitude has been, “I can do this — with lots of help — we can succeed at this. No problem.”
Except there is a problem. I can’t do this. I am ill and I can’t even manage my home. I am moving in a few weeks, my daughter is in a high-risk pregnancy and I need to fly home in May for an unknown (yet breathtakingly exciting time).
The fear just broke me today. It’s not the fear of failure or the fear of success, rather it’s the fear of knowing I’m not right for this job anymore.
What illness and medications do to the mind is daunting, and I need to remind myself that I am not the person I used to be.
I’m not and may never be again.
Krissy Anderson is a freelance writer and former owner of a marketing communications agency. She has been published in 17 languages and was a spokesperson in the computer industry during the boom period in the 1980’s and 90’s. She suffers from RA, ME/CFS, Migraine, Lupus and orthostatic intolerance.