Working With a Chronic Illness and Limitations

Being able to work is something that comes easily for most people (assuming you can find a job) but is rather difficult for me and anyone else suffering with an illness. The fact that I am able to work 30-40 hours a week while going to graduate school with a chronic illness is something that I am very proud of.

Unfortunately, at times, I feel like this is a perfect example of the saying: “Pride goeth before the fall”. Just because I do work that many hours, doesn’t mean I should work that many hours. Both times I ended up in the ER last semester, I was in my work uniform. Which is not a sexy look…believe me on that… I know without a doubt that the last time was a result of my pushing myself too far. When I stupidly push myself too far, bad things happen like blood and protein in my urine, elevated CK levels, and a slight leaning towards acidosis. I’m not sure why this happens, but it’s definitely a trend now. I can now reliably predict when I will have elevated CK levels. For these things to happen because I choose to work a shift the day after doing a bit of yoga is a tad ridiculous though. Sadly these are the realities of working with a chronic illness.

I didn’t understand this at first. Before I was as bad as I am now, I thought that I could push myself through anything. That hard work and perseverance really did make up 99% of success. I never thought that I could be limited by my body. Exhaustion is one thing, but bloody urine? Muscle breakdown? Those are HARD limits. Those are the types of limits that could start a downward spiral. And then what happens???

I don’t know.

There’s the catch. I don’t know what happens when/if I crash. I don’t even know what a “crash” would entail. Whether I would come back from it or whether it would represent a new limit that I would have to live with. There are so many unknowns with chronic illness. So you have to decide what is worth pushing those limits for. Right now, work is worth it to me. Work represents independence for me. I am able to support myself and live on my own. I am able to make my body do what I want in order to get what I want. That is what work is. I’m afraid that this may not always be the case, but for now I’m able to do it.

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