Living with chronic illnesses for 30 years has taught me how critical work can be to health and well being. That's why I am committed to giving people who live with chronic illness the tools they need to be employed.
When I was young and the only one I knew with bad health, I felt like the rotten apple in a bowl of healthy fruit. It didn't matter where I was -- at work, with family or with friends. No one could relate. I worried that my "bruises" made me stand out and unappealing.
But now that I'm older and often in a crowd of 55+ folks, everyone has a tale of bad health. I'm no longer alone. Does it feel easier? Yes.
The same thing happens to those who are currently unemployed, another "socially difficult" state of being. One client said that it's easier for her to go to be with other people now that everyone knows someone out of a job. But being under 40, she still can't talk easily about her illness.
There's something wrong with this picture. Are people so unable to empathize with an event outside of their experience? Do we have to be among others who share our sufferings to feel comfortable? Or are we unnecessarily paranoid and uselessly isolating ourselves?
I'm going to find a sandbox to play in - - maybe I'll be lucky enough to find someone else in my state of health and employment to play with!
Building on her experience living with chronic illnesses, including multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis, Rosalind Joffe founded the executive career coaching practice, cicoach.com. Dedicated to helping others with chronic illness develop the skills they need to succeed in their careers, Rosalind firmly believes that living with chronic illness does not preclude living a full and successful life.
People often surprise us when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and honest about "what is." I am sure you will find some wonderful people in the sandbox--even if no one has your state of health or employment, there is so much more than connects us all. Thank you for your perspective and honesty in this post... and for redefining what it means to be "healthy fruit" :+) RR
Rena - Yes, people can surprise us. But chronic illnes creates challenges for communication - such as invisibile, unpredictable - that make it harder for others. But you're right that we need to figure out what connects us rather than focusing on what makes us different. Thanks for the comment.