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When You're Sick, the 'Hardest' and 'Right' Things Are Sometimes the Same

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I have prided myself on the fact, that despite being chronically ill, I have continued to work. When people would say to me “I don’t know how you do it” or “You are so strong,” I would smile with pride but deep down inside I was trembling with fear.

I have been in my current job for nine years as a human resources director. I know that people come and go from jobs, but this job has been more than a job to me. I started out as a department of one, worked through two very difficult pregnancies (I walked the halls with an IV and a medicine pump) and now through six years of illness. I have come to work almost every day and did my very best to have a smile on my face and work has hard as I could no matter how I was feeling. The problem is that while I was trying to give my best to my job, I have not been able to give it to my family or my health.

Being ill for a long time takes a toll on a person and lately, I have been losing more battles in my fight. I have been thinking a lot about this saying “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”

About a year ago I started thinking about quitting my job. I would go back and forth, up and down and around and around. I would worry that if I quit I was weak. I would worry how much longer could I keep pretending that I could I do it all if I didn’t quit. Because the truth is (and boy does the truth hurt) I was spending way more energy pretending I was doing it all then actually doing anything really well.

I would worry about what my husband and my parents would think of me. I would worry about what my children would think. I would worry about someone else doing the job I had been doing for so long. I would worry about what I was going to do if I wasn’t working. I would worry about my self-worth. I would worry about not being able to take care of myself. I would worry that I hadn’t tried hard enough.

I would worry, worry, worry. Everything and anything that you could possibly think of, I have been worrying about. Because that is what chronic illness does to you. People have said to me, “You are too hard on yourself” or “Even if you were not sick, with everything going on in your life it would be too much.” And, they may be right, but chronic illness can make you second-guess yourself. It can run you down so that hope is replaced with fear. It can fill you with thoughts of “I am not good enough.” It changes you in every possible way.

There were millions of thoughts and emotions that I had to work through to get to the decision I needed to make. In the quiet of the night you can’t hide. There is no more noise, there is no escape. The truth will come whether you want it to or not. One Sunday night, not too long ago, I had to face the big fear that I didn’t want to face. The fear that trembled deep inside when I would smile at those that thought I could do it all. That everyone was going to find out the truth. That I had been failing at every part of my life for longer than I care to admit. I was struggling at work. I was struggling at home. I have felt like an actor in my life through these six very long years of illness. You can only pretend for so long before it all comes crumbling down around you. I knew in that moment that I had to make a decision before the crumbling. I had to do the hard thing that was the right thing.

The next day, with shaking hands and tears in the corners of my eyes, I resigned. I resigned to take care of myself so that I can put what little energy I have towards my family. I resigned so that I can start to take the necessary steps to get back some of the life that this chronic illness has taken from me.

After I resigned I called my mother crying (even though I’m 38 years old, my mom always knows what to say best). I told her that I felt like I was weak, like I was giving up, like I wasn’t strong enough. She said to me “It takes incredible courage to make hard decisions and you, my daughter, are the most courageous person I have ever met.” And, in that moment I knew that as hard as this decision was it was the right one.

I hate being sick. I hate it so much. I hate that it has changed me. I hate that I have had to make this hard choice. But, I also believe that there is reason for each part of our lives. I have spent so long trying to give the best of me to everyone else. This is my chance to give the best of me to me for awhile.

I read a quote in a book recently that said, “All roads lead to something you were always predestined to do.” Maybe, just maybe, I needed to go down this hard road to get to the place where I belong.

Even after resigning I still feel a lot of emotions. I feel a little strange, like I am in between worlds. It is hard to let go of the worry. It keeps popping up and I have to continually remind myself to take a deep breath and let it go. But, as each day passes deep down there is less fear and more hope. Hope. It is wonderful to see a little of you again after such a long time.

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Thinkstock photo by Victor_Tongdee

Originally published: February 15, 2017
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