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The Struggle of Job Hunting With Chronic Illness

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I’ve talked previously here on The Mighty about not feeling “sick enough” to really be sick. I’m also not sick enough to qualify for most kinds of benefits meant to ease the financial and other strains of life with chronic illness and disabilities. So I still need income to pay bills and all of that other fun adult stuff. I work as a freelancer and on a contract basis for some clients, but it’s not enough to get by — which is where a “real job” comes into play.

In the process of trying to find such a job, I’ve always had to keep my various illnesses in mind. Does this job require standing for full shifts?  Cross it off the list.  How about that ever-present “Must be able to lift X pounds” in the job description? Moving on to the next item.

Living in a rather small town, I’ve found remote opportunities to be a great help here. Flexible hours are a perk when you never know when a migraine or chronic pain flare will strike.  Working from the couch or even in bed, if necessary, is a godsend. But even for remote, virtual jobs, I’ve run into one barrier time and again: phone calls.  Thanks to my PTSD and anxiety disorders, phone calls are nearly impossible. I’m fortunate I live in this day and age, where I can order a meal, groceries or anything from the Amazon catalog online without any sort of call. Most companies have a customer service live chat or email should issues arise.

However, this hasn’t been the case when it comes to my job search. Even when a position won’t require any phone time, many employers want to go through a phone interview with potential applicants. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve replied to an interview offer to explain this situation and offer alternatives before never hearing back again. Sure, some of these instances may be a case of their hiring someone else and not bothering to follow up.  One employer even mentioned, upon my reaching out, that they’d ended up hiring an existing employee for the position. But chances are, many of these recruiters and other staff weren’t prepared to make accommodations when there are easier applicants.

Considering the inherent financial strains that come with chronic illness, it’s terrifying to run into this obstacle time and again.  Even more so, if these obstacles come into play in the interview process, what will come from the job itself? What will happen the first time I’m asked to do a task one of my illnesses complicates? It’s a constant additional anxiety that’s hard to convey.

This isn’t to say every company is unaccommodating. I’m ridiculously grateful to those that have understood and worked through an accommodation with me, and I try to express that. Recently one client was shocked to hear it was even an issue!

In a slight silver lining, this has made one step easier: if a company isn’t willing to make this small accommodation, what else might they dismiss when it comes to disabilities? As stressful as it may be in the meantime, I’m not sure that’s a company I would want to work for anyway.

Getty image by Fizkes.

Originally published: August 26, 2019
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