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Comments 15

Accepting Limitations Caused by Chronic Pain & Illness

Copy of ser-en-dip-it-y (n) (7)

Yesterday, after much deliberation (far too much deliberation), I finally accepted the fact that I can no longer work a full-time job because of my chronic pain.

My bosses did everything they could to work with me on a solution, but I cannot fundamentally perform the tasks required by my job. Driving to the office, sitting in a chair every day, and traveling to meetings was chipping away at me, little by little, breaking down any resilience I had left… which sounds absurd, doesn’t it? A sedentary job being too much for me?

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Curse you, ergonomic chair!

But it was, and it is. Even mitigating devices put in place (like a kneeling chair at my desk or taking breaks in a recliner in my office) wasn’t enough. Husband has been begging me for ages to put my health first, finances be damned, but I kept dwelling on the decision and driving him out of his mind with my constant “What if?”s (again, I am sorry, Husband).

The reason for my very extended delay in making this transition was that it is just so hard to accept that I am limited in any way. That I’m actually disabled. I know this. I joke about it with friends, because if I don’t joke about it, then it threatens to overwhelm me. If I joke about it, then I am in control. And even though working from the comfort of my home sounded great — fantastic, even — in comparison to pain exacerbated by my office job, I just couldn’t make that jump for the longest time.

Simply put: Despite the pain, my job is comfortable. I know that a paycheck comes every other Friday. I know that my bosses and coworkers like me, so getting fired would probably not happen. It is safe. It is stable. The work is interesting. I did good work at first. Then that good work started becoming decent work after my surgery. And then that decent work started becoming okay work. The pain kept getting worse. I’d come home from the office totally exhausted, far more so than usual tiredness. I grew increasingly paranoid, trying to guess what my bosses were thinking of my excuses (sending a text with “Sorry, can’t come in today, I’m having a pain flare” and receiving radio silence in response) and wondering whether they were disappointed in me.

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Helloooooo? Anyone there? Over.

But with the money coming in almost equaling the money going out, it seemed absurd to leave. It seemed wrong. Surely if I just tried harder, I’d make a rally.

… Obviously I did not make a rally. I will be finishing this month and then working with my office on a “per project” basis, which is actually fantastic. Aside from that I have to navigate the world of unemployment. I’ll do some work-from-home freelancing. It’s a wide open world, bright and shiny, and I’m terrified.

Even that terror, though — the terror feels empty and hollow. I knew this was coming. I held off as long as I could. I prepared as much as was possible. I tried to be a regular person, though every day these thoughts were crowding into my mind. Now I am making adjustments so that my health comes first instead of finances taking priority. I have accepted that being me comes with some limitations these days. Right now. At this moment. These limitations are not forever. And who knows, maybe having my daily stressors removed will allow me to finally feel better for an extended period of time. All I know is that I can no longer operate from a place of fear.

Working from home will be an adventure. I will have a schedule; I will wear pants.

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Exhibit A: pants.

My co-worker will be a cat.

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Exhibit B: cat.

I will have a dedicated office space. My living room and bedroom will be off-limits until after work hours; if I have to take a nap, we have a guest room. I will engage in local activities that I couldn’t do before because they were during the traditional work day.

And most importantly — and as both Husband and my family told me for so long, it really is the most important thing — I will focus on my health.

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15 Comments

  1. I feel for you, every step of the way and I know how painful each step is physically, emotionally and metaphorically. I have struggled with my own work chronic pain battle over the past decade, the gradual reducing of hours, an office set up with more ergonomic gadgets than stores hold and even desks that raised to standing position. It is with a somewhat heavy and reluctant heart that after my latest flare up and problems I have had to take ill health retirement officially my last day being in January as I work out my notice period from the discomfort of my own cushion city at home. My wife has been so supportive as I have struggled not only with the pain, the emotion of giving up a job I loved and got great satisfaction from helping teenagers achieve their full potential as a college mentor and the pain of not being able to provide for my own family. I know I start a new journey from home and the endless opportunities but I delayed it and delayed it and made my back and disability worse as I had a fear of not contributing to society and/or having no purpose to my family. I am glad to report that my mental stress has lessened, my positivity has increased and I am building a relationship with a local disabled rights charity and hope to volunteer for them in the future.

    Our fears do prevent us from reaching our full potential I am sure of it, I am happy I worked as long as I did now to a new chapter. I wish you all the success in the world and as above a gentle hug to avoid pain for us both.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing how many people are in the same position. Thank you so much for your kind words. I’ve always been one of those people who defines themselves by what they do with their career, so I feel like I’ve got some personal reflection to do. But I’m sick of this fear, and this fear has been around since my surgery. As soon as I realized I wasn’t getting better like I thought I would, I knew I’d eventually have to leave work. I just put that decision off and off and off and drove everyone around me insane in the process. I’m glad your wife is so supportive — my husband is the same. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without his support. I’m excited for the opportunities working from home will bring, though!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Seachy Waffles On and commented:
    This is a great piece by a blogger I follow who sadly has had to go through similar to me regarding work. It is good to know that even having never met outside of the blogging world us Spoonies go through similar normal thoughts and feelings. I feel for you and wish you every success with your new venture

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I also want to give you a hug. I too have navigated changing my work hours, and later environment due to my change in my chronic pain levels and symptoms. It is hard to accept when we have to change to better take care of yourself and have more time and energy for your family. I’m so glad you were able to switch from working at the office to home. I’m also happy that you have set up a wonderful set of guidelines for how you will structure your home work space and pain needs. You are very blessed to have a wonderful husband who supports and cares so much for you taking care of your health. I also pray that working from home helps you physically, mentally, and most importantly allowing you more good/better days and I’m wishing you many extra spoons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • From what you say in your comment, I only have better things to look forward to once I transition to home. Thank you so much for your kind words (and the extra spoons)! Did you ever feel lonely upon your transition to home? I’m a pretty solitary person to begin with, but my pain shrink keeps coming back to that and is concerned I’ll become too withdrawn. Was that ever a problem for you?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am so sorry that I forgot to reply to your question. I am so sorry, my medications really mess with my memory. I have to keep a list of things I need to do each day so I remember to do them.

        I, sadly, was not able to transition home from any of my jobs with my chronic pain and other symptoms made working outside the home impossible. My last job, which I loved, was being a medical scribe that worked with a doctor in the ERs of the Baptist Hospitals where I live. I had to take medical leave when I a fractured piece a lead of my spinal cord stimulator actually went into my spinal cord at the wrong angle when I randomly turned my head one night. I spoke with my boss about the 2-3 month recovery period and I was going to transition to training others at the main office that was close to my home and much shorter hours that I could sit during. We had a plan to start there and then train me to review the template sheets Medical Scribes filled in for the examination, any labs and radiological exams to ensure everything was in order which could be done at home once my training was complete.

        When the fragment went into my spine I was in so much pain I had to go to the ER in tears with vitals sky high due to the level of pain I was in. When it happened because I didn’t know what happened, I did not even know the lead was fractured before the CT scan was read. The ER helped stabilize my pain and I was put in a collar so I didn’t do more damage. I had to have my old stimulator fully removed by my neurosurgeon. He set it up so that he fully removed my old system and had to add on cutting through down through my muscle and other tissues to get to the fractured piece that was lodged between C1 and C2. I was kept in the ICU because he placed a trial paddle lead and we were hoping a new system would ease the pain. He decided to implant the new system, I guess I agreed to it, but I don’t remember the conversation due to the level of pain medication I was on in addition to what was my long list of medications then. I don’t know if it was the fragment when it went into my spine, or when it was taken out but it cause my chronic pain to spread to my entire body instead of just my upper body where it was before my surgery. I knew the pain could spread, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (RSD/CRPS) can spread from the slightest injury so I expected some spread, but thought the stimulator could handle int. I also could have been paralyzed or died due to where the fragment was in my spine. I am sorry if this was TMI.

        I wasn’t able to return to work due to the spreading of the pain and the fact the stimulator and medications did not cover enough of the pain for me to be able to function in my workplace. I had to go on disability.

        I hope and pray your transition has gone better and I have kept you in my prayers for only the best for you physically, emotionally and spiritually. I also hope and pray the transition has allowed you to have more energy and time with your family.
        Again I am sorry for the long post, I will keep you and your family in my prayers and I am trying to catch up on blogs since I have not been able to due to my medical issues causing me more issues frequently.

        Liked by 1 person

      • For some reason it’s not letting me reply below your comment, so I’m writing it here. I’m so sorry about your pain. That is horrific about what happened with your spinal stimulator. I didn’t even know something like that could happen. I’m so sorry for how tired and dispirited you must be. Gentle hugs to you and many extra spoons!!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You post really struck a cord with me, when I had to give up work, it didn’t occur to me (mine was mental health problems) but now I am getting better I am finding the limititations that my mind has set very frustrating, however I have high hopes of entering the work force again. I really hope you will look after your health 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! I’m trying to strike that balance between “limitations” and working around those limitations, if that makes any sense. Like, I know I still have a lot to offer, I just have to revamp my lifestyle so I am in the best position to offer those skills. What sort of work do you do? Are you entirely home right now? Wishing you a gentle and pain-free day! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I use to be self employed and work pubs and clubs around me, but then my depression and social anxiety came back with a vengence, so trying to work in an environment where you keep having panic attacks didn’t work. I hope you have had a good day

        Like

  5. Pingback: Word War Won: Being Unreliable vs. Your Body Being Unreliable | Wear, Tear, & Care

  6. I can relate so well to your sentiments. At a young age, I went from being an overachiever to going on disability and then having to quit due to fibromyalgia and repetitive strain injury. It was psychologically traumatic, and even as I rebuild my life now as a law student, I am still ridden with fears about functioning ‘normally’ in a workplace. Thank you for your honest sharing.

    Like

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