Check out my guest post for Jenni Grover Prokopy’s site, ChronicBabe!
Hi! My name is Jen, and I’m a 29-year-old attorney, editor, writer, and patient advocate. I have spinal fractures from two car accidents that required two cervical fusions. The jury’s out on whether I’ll need more surgery.
I worked in an office for three and a half years after law school. At that point I was dealing with the fallout from my first car accident, which happened in 2004 and decimated my thoracic spine. Law school happened, and then my job, and then… another accident. That second accident became a barrier to a normal life.
Eventually I decided to leave my job and work from home. Here are the reasons why it was the best decision I ever made.
My health comes first now.
I was living the dream: I had a legal job that started at 8 am, ended around 6 pm, had great coworkers, and allowed for a life. My bosses were cool. During my second year, however, I had another car accident. The moment the pain set in, I knew I’d eventually have to leave the traditional workforce. In the year before I left I suffered from increasing pain (which caused repeated vomiting and a hernia), insomnia, loss of control of my hands, limping, muscle spasms, and loss of my ability to focus. In the end, it wasn’t worth it. Now, I telecommute from a recliner. I schedule my day around doctors’ appointments. I work a schedule that flows with when I’m feeling best. Before, there wasn’t time in the day to work on my health, so it controlled me.
I am much happier.
The “What should I do?” questions wore down my family – especially my husband. I steered every conversation in that direction because I wanted someone to say, “No, you can’t work.” I wanted someone to make that impossibly hard decision for me. My husband begged me to think about my health while I thought about finances. How could I leave without a backup plan? What if I made the wrong decision?
So I did what is generally inadvisable. I started a side-hustle, working on sites like Upwork.com and Flexjobs.com to create a cushion for when I made the jump. I don’t know how I did that, because the level of pain at that point was inhuman. I think it’s because I knew that leaving was inevitable. Now, having the weight of that decision off my chest feels unbelievable. I can breathe. I can think. And with that, I can work. I’m not paralyzed.
My body doesn’t rebel.
The longer I stayed in the office, the more my body fought. My old firm does a lot of tax work, so February 15 to April 15 meant staying late and working weekends. After my second accident, I couldn’t do it. That year my bosses let me keep a normal schedule, since they knew my first spinal fusion would interrupt the marathon anyway. Now, my body doesn’t suffer because of my job. I plan my work around how I feel. Sometimes I need to work harder one day to make up for a rest day, and that’s okay.
I mold my office to fit my needs.
My bosses were great. They bought me a reclining chair for when I needed breaks, and I bought a kneeling chair for my desk. I borrowed books to prop up my monitor and make a standing desk. They never questioned when I had to stretch. Whenever my pain flared, I read on the floor. When it got to the point at which I could no longer sit for a 30-minute meeting, though, I knew something had to give. These days I work from my recliner. Sometimes I use the kneeling chair in the office. Sometimes I work from bed while using prism glasses (they look ridiculous but are gentle on my neck).
I blend my skills in exciting ways.
I did not work for the first few months of 2016 because I was recovering from my second spinal fusion. Once I was coherent, I was able to freelance and create the job of my dreams: attorney editor. The great thing about freelancing is that I get to use all of my skills. By switching up projects, my mind stays engaged. Editing doesn’t require as much mental bandwidth as estate planning does, so it suits me right now.
I finally understand my body. We aren’t fighting anymore, and that’s worth all the fear I felt before making the jump. Now I know that working from home – and putting my health above everything else – was the right decision for me.