I sat with my morning coffee today, much longer than usual. It’s my morning “ritual”…..wake up in a stupor of pain, exhaustion, nausea and dizziness and promptly dump the pain killer, Tramadol, into my body. Today, that saving grace was taking longer to kick in. I typically look at the news, FB and Pinterest, but I also obsessively scroll looking for jobs. It’s insane, I know.
I had my first job at 14 1/2. I’ve worked for IBM, Immigration, a medical software firm and owned my own business. Working and striving for excellence were just deeply ingrained within me. So to now sit on the permanently indented couch (indented from my butt, that is), sometimes day and night, is painful (and I mean more painful than my physical pain). When I got “sick”, I was at the height of my career and success; I was making 6 figures, loved what I did, owned my own business and loved working in healthcare. I never assumed, then, that I would never work again. That all I built would be catastrophically taken away, only to be replaced by Netflix and Hulu.
So I still look, often, almost habitually and it just isn’t healthy or helpful.
When I look, it brings on a myriad of thoughts and emotions: Why can’t I work? Other people work who are sick. Why can’t I just will myself to get better? Maybe I can try. Then I mentally redesign my resume and update it. I think of all I could have and wanted to do. I yearn to be what and who I was and then bully myself into shame and guilt for my inability to work. I question whether I’ve just become lazy or complicit in life and compare myself to other people online or on FB. Then I begin to rationalize and bargain; maybe I can actually try working and just see how it goes.
But I know how it will go, really. I know that the once simple act of showering now tires me to the point that I need to sit and rest after one. I know that my morning meds take hours to kick in, to make me feel human again. I know that my symptoms shift and swap themselves, daily, sometimes multiple times a day. Legitimately, who will hire someone who needs a saucepan (to get sick in) every time she gets in the car? Or someone who needs to lie down, sometimes multiple times a day, due to the dizzy spells and nausea. How would I type all day when my hands hurt from simply texting or writing a blog post or sit in a chair for hours, when pain radiates through my body?
And that is when the reality of my situation kicks in. I am on Disability and am Disabled because I got sick. Getting sick and staying that way doesn’t make me lazy or unmotivated or complicit, it makes me chronically ill.
As a person who always worked to her potential, my “potentials” are just no longer the same. That does not, however, make them any less. Actually getting to walk my dog is no different than nailing a key presentation; I worked hard to achieve both those things. I’m still the professional I once was and the high achiever that I still picture in my mind; I’m just those things with constraints now. The constraints that make me incapable of working, no matter how much I miss it. For a time, we didn’t know if or for how long I would have live. So I try to always come back to that: humility and gratitude for simply being alive and able to get out of bed. Instead of focusing on what I don’t have or can’t do, maybe working more diligently on being okay is what my full time job should be. Because okay is great when you get to live.
Take pride in what you accomplish, whether it’s simply making it into the shower, finally getting to walking the dog, actually cooking dinner or just unloading the dishwasher. You won’t fail until you won’t try.