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When Chronic Pain Threatens to Halt Your Career

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I want to quit my job. I thoroughly enjoy it, but I can’t stay. I’m working in the field I’m interested in. I’m in the process of getting a master’s degree in this field. I feel purposeful and content when I am at work. So, why am I considering leaving? Because I’m simply too exhausted to do my job.

I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but I have been feeling the symptoms since as early as high school. The pain, the brain fog and the fatigue. Oh my goodness, all the fatigue. Some days, I go to work and am perfectly fine, cheerful and able to bounce around the office, deftly completing tasks. Other days, I have to call in only an hour before my shift, because I can’t manage to drag myself out of bed because I awoke already tired, or my hands and legs are aching so badly that I can barely move. I’m only 25, but I have to arm myself with hand braces, painkillers, anti-depressants and muscle relaxants just to make it through the day — if I’m able to even start the day in the first place.

I feel guilty and helpless when I have to call in. My team is small, and I want to be there to support them. As second-in-command, I need to be there to support them, but some days I can’t even support the weight of my body on my legs. I also live with PTSD, depression, and anxiety, so even on a good physical day, there is a chance that my mind will sabotage me and keep me homebound instead.

Currently, I am 25 and already wondering if I could qualify for disability. However, my career is just beginning, and I have immense passion for it. Do I really want it to end so quickly? Only time will tell, as I may not have a choice in the future.

For now, I am doing my best to keep well, even with the limitations the current pandemic puts upon that and many of my coping mechanisms. I am lucky to be able to see doctors that believe my conditions are real and who are building a care plan for me. The future is uncertain, but I have had to learn that baby steps can sometimes move mountains, so I will trust in the slow changes for now, even if I sometimes struggle to be patient.

Getty image by Millan.

Originally published: December 4, 2020
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