Re-Entering the Job Market After Years of Struggling With Fibromyalgia


While it took much longer than I would have liked, at long last I graduated from college this past May, and am ready to go back to work. Right after graduation, I was feeling confident and ready to take on the world, like so many other graduates. Having worked for many years prior to finishing my degree, I told myself it should be a snap to find something both rewarding and challenging, just like my recent university experience. I hadn’t looked at my resume in a few years, and after happily adding my educational accomplishment, I decided to look through my work history.
It was a shock to say the least.

 

Starting backwards in my work experience, I saw myself in my 20s, working for an internet start-up in the mid-90s. I worked hard, walked or rode my bike to work every day, took classes at community college at night and was active and healthy. This life was light years from the person I am now. Subsequent jobs were all reminders of my life before fibromyalgia changed everything for me.

The final job I held before my illness brought first becoming sick back to me like a lightning strike. I went from working out two hours a day, having a fun but stressful and demanding job and a long commute to barely being able to sit up in bed. I had to leave my job, go on short-term disability and slowly work my way back to better health.

As those of us who have this illness know, the symptoms are vast, and vary for everyone. I know I am luckier than a lot of people with fibro, and I never forget it. I have had two six-month stints of debilitating fatigue over the last 13 years, the last one about five years ago. I am in pain most of the time, and can get very emotional if I don’t get enough sleep, but I exercise at least 30 minutes a day, feel mentally sharp most days, and am generally happy. I have a great support system, and am grateful.

Though I have tried other rewarding careers that require too much physical energy, I had to leave those to someone else. My self-esteem was truly in the gutter before I decided to go back to college and get this degree done once and for all. That was, and still is a huge high for me, but now I am figuring out how to get my professional life back. I am determined to not let fibromyalgia take anything else away from me, while being mindful of my physical limits. Life with this illness is truly a constant balancing act.

While this new challenge is a little daunting, I am ready to do all I can to get back to work and to start a new chapter. If you’re in the same boat as I am, I send you gentle hugs and all the encouragement I have to give. Let’s do this!

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Thinkstock photo via Peshkova.


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