Making health fit into your career
This is an article I've been sitting on for a while. It's been in my head, and on my heart, but for so many reasons I have been hesitant to share.
I've wondered how it will come across, and what people with think of me. If sharing about all the health struggles I've had will look unprofessional and affect whether or not people will want to work with me. At the end of the day I keep reminding myself that I created this brand so I could do my part in breaking patterns, stigmas and share the things that I'm going through to help others see that it's not just them. So here goes.
When I was 16 I was diagnosed with glandular fever and off the back of that I developed chronic fatigue syndrome. I'd love to say that was both the beginning and the end of my health struggles but sadly that's not the case. I would not describe myself a sickly person at all, quite the opposite, if you know me you know that I'm generally a high energy, bubbly person. It's just as if my body can't keep that up all the time.
After 4 years of working through my chronic fatigue syndrome, I've had recurring bouts of glandular fever, chronic tonsillitis, fatigue, and a lot of gut health struggles after being diagnosed as coeliac when I was 19. As you might have experienced, often chronic physical illness goes hand in hand with mental struggles as well. To be honest I never really knew if how much I struggled physically was the catalyst for my anxiety and depression or whether that was another thing I was juggling.
Through high school and university I had modifications to my learning to assist me with easing the pressure on how much I had to physically turn up to class/campus. While I was grateful to have the recognition and support, it never sat well with me. At best I felt guilty for my peers who didn't get the same adjustments, at worst I felt angry that I couldn't just be like everyone else and be normal. I had to process a lot of frustration that I didn't get to just blend in with the cohort.
I had to withdraw from my early degree teaching pracs due to resurgence of CFS and being able to complete my 4th-year placement which required me to be working full time in a school for multiple weeks was a huge challenge.
During this time I was seeing a counselor that I was sharing my concerns with about how I was going to manage life in the "real world" once I graduated. I was painfully aware that a full-time career didn't really lend itself to special considerations as high school and uni did.
More so, I didn't WANT to work full time. Even at 21 I could tell that I wanted something more and different for my life than a 9-5 career, and the fact that my body couldn't sustain that was more proof that that wasn't for me. When I was musing these things aloud to him I remember him saying to me, "who says you have to work full time? Who says you need to do that if you don't want to?".
That moment, nearly 10 years ago, is still crystal clear in my mind. It was a major turning point in not only my career but the way I looked at my future and my ability to create a job and work-life balance that supported my health.
From then I started to work on the idea of creating a life that brought out the best in me, and also accounted for times when I was sick and not able to show up physically. I created a career that was forgiving on my inconsistent health, which allowed me to work from home in bed, or the couch and still be able to produce my best creative work even if my body was tired.
It's taken nearly a decade of trying different things, delicately balancing working enough to build my brand without pushing myself too hard that I burn out. I've not always got that balance right but I've found that practice improves.
Over the last few weeks I've come undone again a bit. I got tonsillitis (for like the 450th time) and then my glands and CFS have flared up so I've had to settle in at home and make my health the priority. I'd be lying if I said it was easy, and that I don't feel those familiar pangs of guilt and frustration, but the older I get the more I've come to accept that I just have to do life a little bit differently.
If you're reading this and you have felt the same way, or have gone through something similar, I just want you to know that you are by no means alone in that. I get you. Sure it sucks, but how lucky are we to be in an era that allows for a more flexible approach to work and career. Don't go through the motions just because you think that's what you should do. If you want to create a different life, work opportunity, or routine that best supports you in all your unique needs - then go for it and don't let anyone get in the way of that (even you.)
Oh and PS those tonsils are officially coming out. #byefelicia