Jennifer Ishbel Bell

@jennifer-ishbel-bell | contributor
Warrior wife, step-mum, cat-mum and mum-to-be. Writer, Poet, Business Owner. Bizarre sandwich combination level: Expert.

How to Create Structure and Achieve Goals With Chronic Illness

All these times you beat yourself up for not doing something or finishing something or not keeping to a schedule… who made those rules for you? Sure, sometimes it’s a rule you have to follow for work or because something requires it, but most of the time it’s a ridiculous standard we’ve made for ourselves. As chronic illness warriors, we are guilty of adhering to this standard because we are desperately seeking some form of normality and progress. And the world tells us that to have normality and progress we must have routine and schedules and tidy little boxes for our life. Except life doesn’t work like that and life as a warrior definitely doesn’t work like that. Life as a warrior is about compromise, flexibility, the unknown, the unpredictable… and yet we are drawn to create rules for ourselves that are about the definite, inflexible, predictable — the known. We often create rules for ourselves to control what we know deep down is uncontrollable. Even if, like me, you’re a natural rule breaker and hate structure, we still crave it so much and don’t know why! And it hurts us because it feeds into the “I always fail” narrative, the cycles of sabotage. But it’s OK, because we can choose to change that at any time. Because we made those rules, we can also change them and break them. So how can we create structure, some sense of normality, something to hold onto that doesn’t descend into failure and guilt? It’s all about flexibility… Create optional flexible structures for yourself, think of it as a “choose your adventure” story book where there are a number of options you can take, but you have the freedom and choice to decide what you feel is possible from one day to the next. So how would that look? It looks like: To-do lists that are purely a list in order of priority but without days or times attached. This way you know what’s next but you don’t feel overwhelmed by options and you don’t feel hemmed-in to do it at a certain time. You also have permission to do any of the tasks near the top, so you can go with what you feel like. A “pick and mix” list of useful tasks that you can dip into when you feel like it. Simple, quick five minute tasks that get the annoying little things done and make you feel useful even when you don’t feel like doing anything big. Things you can do from your bed and things you can do at your different ability levels. For example, I have a list of things I can do sitting up in bed when ill, but well enough to focus a bit. I also have a list for when I’m up and about, but not at full capacity. Have a list of things to do when you’re needing rest. This sounds weird, but stay with me. It includes things like drink water, take tablets, put something easy to eat by the bed, sleep, lie down, read. It sounds ridiculous, but actually having a list of things to do when unwell — even if they sound like doing nothing–actually makes you feel like you’re still achieving at looking after yourself. Instead or having “I will do” rules, have some “I don’t have to” and “I don’t” rules. This has worked so well for me because just giving myself permission has improved my anxiety and overwhelm. I have rules like “I don’t have to get up before noon,” or “I don’t do work on my business until after 2 p.m.” The magic of these is they still aren’t telling me I have to do anything and they give me permission to be flexible. I made time for me and my health my morning priority. Not everyone can do something quite like this, but you can make other rules. For example, “I don’t have to check my emails until after 10 a.m.” can give you less overwhelm at work first thing, or “I don’t do detailed work until after noon” if you work better with calls and meetings in the morning and find the brain fog clears in the afternoon. The great thing about these is you don’t have to tell anyone your rules, or if you have someone, and it helps to share them, you can. In my previous career I used to share when I worked best on different things with my manager so she would have my back on how I arranged my work and calendar. We can still make forward progress towards our goals as warriors, whether that’s to start a business, finally clean the spare room or just genuinely make self-care a priority. And let me say this loudly and clearly: all goals are valid and equal. What you want is valid. It doesn’t matter that it looks small in comparison to other people’s goals. It helps to be surrounded by people who know what that’s like. As warriors, we just have to do things a bit differently, and that’s OK. If you’re looking for a community of warriors that’s based in real connections and building confidence, you are welcome to join my free community, The Sassy Classy Warrior  as well as this online accountability group.

How to Be More Efficient With Chronic Illness

Sounds backward, doesn’t it? That you can be sick more than most, but be more efficient than them? But when you are used to being sick, you do something that most people don’t when they are sick: you give into it. You just let it be.Sure, you throw your go-to remedies at it, you do the right things, but you also just give in and be OK with the fact there is nothing you can do. When you physically can’t do things, you are suddenly granted magical permission to not do anything apart from rest and heal. When you are used to being ill, you let go of control and give into this permission much quicker than others. Because there really is no choice. Yeah, it sucks being ill more than most, but there’s a free feeling that comes with it too, when you suddenly realize so many of the things you do that you see as “vital” are allowed to come to a halt, that you press pause and the world doesn’t end. It really does make us reassess how important all these “important” things really are. When I think about many of the things I have to put on pause when chronic illness hits, I’m always surprised by how many of them are imposed by other people that aren’t even my priorities, or ridiculous self-imposed rules that really don’t matter. With each crash or relapse, I find my ideas of what is really important changing yet again, peeling back the layers like an onion. And what do I discover under all those onion layers of society’s imposed and self-imposed rules? I discover that I need: 1. Water. 2. Nourishment. 3. Fresh air. 4. Shelter. 5. Connection and love of some kind. 6. Passions and interests. 7. Medical and health necessities. 8. Enough money/ability to source all the above. And it occurs to me what a very short list that is. I wonder how many of the things we worry about actually come under those headings? And if they don’t, then why are we making them such a priority? Being a chronic illness and/or mental health warrior allows us to peel back layers that many, without those same struggles, don’t stop to think about. If you’re someone like me who hasn’t always struggled, you will see the stark differences between the things you used to think were important and what you do now. So, how does that give us an edge? It probably doesn’t feel like an edge most of the time but we really do have our priorities straight when we allow ourselves to fully embrace them. And efficiency is all about knowing your priorities. So many people make the mistake of bending their priorities to what the rest of the world wants, but our inability to do everything the world wants us to gives us the opportunity to do things differently purely because we don’t have any choice but to do things differently! So if we have an edge over others, then why doesn’t it feel like it? And why do we feel like we are constantly under-achieving and missing out on the goals we plan? I think one of the problems is, we are able to acknowledge that we don’t work like other people, and yet we still try to set goals and plan our tasks the same way as other people and then beat ourselves up because we seem to continually fail. What if we just stopped trying to “achieve” in the ways other people do and stop trying to achieve the things other people tell us we should? Would we still feel like under-achievers if we stopped comparing ourselves and focused on achieving the small simple but hugely important goals that mean the most to us? This is something that’s been bugging me a lot, especially when each New Year rolls around and I see people in my warrior community make plans for the coming year and then watch the disappointment as those plans unravel. That’s why I created a weekly goal planning and accountability group, especially for warriors. If you’d like help with your goals using a uniquely warrior-like approach (in a group of people who don’t take themselves too seriously) you’d be welcome to join us in The Sassy Classy Kick Up The Assy Accountability Group .

How to Prepare for Next Christmas If You Have a Chronic Illness

You might think I’m ridiculous thinking about next Christmas already when we haven’t even got this one over with yet, but stay with me here, there’s method in the madness! So why think about it now? Because, in a few months time, maybe even a few weeks time, you may have somehow convinced yourself that it’s not really that detrimental to your health, that it’s not that bad. Because that’s what we do, the human brain lies to us! But right now, while you’re in the thick of it having to socialize with Aunt Doris who keeps asking you why you’re sick all the time, and the empty bank balance that’s not going to pay next month’s medications and the never-ending list of things to do that no one seems to be helping with, and the party you’re at that you’re not sure why because your feet hurt and you can’t eat any of the food and through all of it you think that maybe everyone has just had mass amnesia and forgotten that you are actually sick because the help isn’t forthcoming but the task list keeps getting longer… That’s the stuff we forget in a few months time, but right now we can see the problems clearly and we have the will to do something about it so it doesn’t repeat every year. I’ve always struggled with the holiday season and the illness warriors in my community and around me in my life kept telling me the same, that they dreaded it all. It’s why I wrote a mini book of tips and tricks to help and it’s why I’m going to share three of my favorite tips with you here that you can take away and use straight away. 1. Create your holding response. This is one you can practice all year round but it’s going to come in especially handy when invites and commitments start landing on you near the holiday time. A lot of the time we don’t know what to say when someone invites us or asks us to help with something. Sometimes, as illness and mental health warriors, we don’t know how much personal information to share or how to share it in the right way. So, we may end up saying yes out of politeness when what we mean is “no” or “I don’t know.” A holding response is simply a sentence you practice and adapt to the situation in person, online, on a text to politely respond to a request or invite when you want to give yourself the breathing room to think about it, or to think of a more polite way to say no! Here’s a simple one as an example: “Thanks so much for the invite, that sounds wonderful! Can I get back to you about that once I’ve checked my calendar?” It’s polite but clear that they can’t and aren’t getting a response right now and it takes the pressure right off you. 2. Family fun and getting stuff done can live together in (a messy kind of) harmony. OK. It’s not going to be quite as refined as if you did it all yourself but… probably not as fun either! There are so many tasks and things to do at the holiday times that can be turned into fun for everyone. From baking homemade edible gifts, to bagging up items for charity, to taking turns decorating the tree. As adults we can be (especially when it comes to children or young adults) a bit reluctant to hand over responsibility and let someone else try. And sometimes that doesn’t help us as warriors. We may not see people having fun with us as “helping” and it may seem like more of a hinderance, but that’s how people (especially younger people) learn how to do those things and it’s how they’ll gradually take the burden from you. The great thing about thinking about these things now is you have a year to start training family members to do the tasks that you’ve struggled with this time round. What can you let go of having to be in charge of? You’re allowed to let someone else lead sometimes. 3. Have a system that works for you. This is less one tip and more of a theme. The holiday season is a machine of many moving parts. Gifts, food, family, cooking, wrapping, posting, partying… recipe for disaster. You are literally not meant to remember all the things that you are supposed to remember about this time of year. Your brain is not meant to hold on to the number of stamps you need, how many grams of flour, which cartoon character your niece likes. People who remember this stuff have a system. Sometimes it becomes so second nature that it looks like they don’t have one… but I promise they do. And the system is actually very simple: write things down and keep them all in one place. Find a system you like for recording the things you need to record and then just keep using it and refining it. The minute you write something down where it will be checked your brain stops subconsciously reminding you of it every five minutes and stressing you out. So get it all out of your head and on to paper. You’ll find more tips from me and also from the people in my online warrior community in my Kindle ebook: “The Sassy Classy Warrior. A Guide to Surviving the Holiday Season: For Chronic Illness and Mental Health Warriors.” Plus it comes with bonus printable downloads, especially with point #3 in mind… to get it all out of your head and on to paper. You can find the book here or on worldwide Amazon websites. I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you all to take some time for you this holiday season. Have a Sassy Classy Holiday Season, my warrior friends.

The Reality of What It's Like to Work With Chronic Illness

I no longer work in a 9-5 or office environment, but I did for many years. Somehow, I managed to hold down a full-time career with chronic fatigue syndrome for a long time and there are things, to this day, that even my closest colleagues never knew. You see, working with a chronic illness is like a magic act. For the sake of our colleagues and bosses we put on a good show throughout the week but behind the scenes we are the masters of deception. So much so that you often won’t know we are ill at all. So, here are my dirty little secrets, the things I did to get by while working with an illness: 1. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a shower. Showering often left me more exhausted and even less refreshed than when I gotin. The physical exertion required could literally leave me in a hot and bothered mess. Baby wipes were a savior, dry shaving was the only kind of shaving that went on most days and only if it couldn’t be avoided completely. Shaving to the ankle was also a go-to hack when wearing trousers. 2. I went to the hairdressers regularly for a wash and blow dry. Not because I was fancy (although that might be what I told you) but becausethere was nothing less fun than washing your hair when you were exhausted anddealing with pain. There have been more days I care to admit when I have saton the side of the bath and cried, thrown shampoo bottles at the wall in atantrum before finally calling my mum and asking her to wash my hair over thesink like she did when I was a child. Dry shampoo plus my mum basically madehaving hair on my head possible for most of my 20s. 3. My weekends were chilled for a reason. Notice how, when we were sharing our weekend adventures that mine seem toconsist of “nothing much, just chilled really?” Well, that was my code for “I put my pajamas on at 7 p.m. on Friday and didn’t take them off until 7 a.m. on Monday.” Working during the week with an illness can take the whole weekend to recover from, and not in the fun, choosing-to-relax way but in a necessary-to-function way. 4. I didn’t take long holidays. It was rare that I had any annual leave left to take a full week or two-week holiday somewhere nice because I had used them all up on recuperation time and extending my weekends to be able to function better throughout the year. The thought of traveling to and from a holiday destination could also be stressful: four days of relaxation, three days of panic, followed by a week recovering from the cold my immune-compromised body picked up from spending hours in a plane with other people’s germs. 5. I didn’t always tell the truth. Yep. I told big fat lies. Lies to keep my job. Because the truth was I was too ill to be working a full-time job but not ill enough to receive benefits. It’s surprising how good you can get at telling porkies when your livelihood depends on it. I lied that I was coping, I lied that I wasn’t as bad as I was, there were times I even lied and said I had the same bug that was going around the office rather than admit it was due to my disclosed illness because that had less backlash and raised less awkward questions. 6. My bed to door routine was seven minutes. Really, I timed it and would silently congratulate myself if I got it down to six. Every minute spent in bed resting was worth the reduced time to get ready. It’s amazing what you can do in seven minutes with baby wipes, dry shampoo, atop-knot, mascara and a concealer stick. 7. I mastered my work wardrobe. Think Mr. Zuckerberg is the only one who owns a bunch of identical tops and trousers? Warrior workers have had that shit down for years. The trick is to find yourself a pair of trousers and a smart top that don’t crease and don’t require ironing, then buy at least three pairs of those same trousers and buy the top in every single color it comes in. See how difficult it can be to spot a warrior-worker? We can rock-up to workbaby-wipe fresh, top-knotted or freshly blow-dried hair in our crease-freesmart clothes and we lie about how we are feeling to keep up the charade, but Ipromise you, behind the organized and sorted act is a woman who is totallyexhausted every day. Have patience and love for your colleagues, they might bea warrior in disguise. You can join my free online community on Facebook at the link in my profile. Just click on my name. Stay classy warrior workers!

How to Tell Your Boss and Colleagues About Your Illness

Deciding whether to disclose a disability or health concern to your boss and your co-workers can be a difficult decision and it’s not one to be taken lightly. I’ve experienced both sides; I’ve worked in places I never told, and I’ve worked in places I did. I’ve also experienced both the amazing and terrible ways in which employers can respond to disclosure. In my own case, my illness became too obvious to hide and to be honest I was just so tired of lying and feeling alone in my struggle. I was fantastic at my job, and when I was able to work in ways that worked around my illness I was able to shine and free to be my best self but in order to do that I needed the support of my boss and my colleagues. So if you’re thinking about having that conversation with your own boss and co-workers, here are some things to include in those conversations to turn your disclosure into something that will help you and your co-workers in the future: 1. Contingency planning Agree a worst-case scenario plan with your boss ahead of time, so if it arises it is no big deal. You will not be in the mental or physical space to negotiate or ask for what you need in that moment, so plan for it before you need it. 2. Have a plan in place for work boundaries Have a plan to make sure worst-case scenarios are rare by planning your regular work schedule, hours, tasks and ways of working with your boss to set you up to be the best you can be at your job. 3. Draw them a map Take responsibility for your part in this; they don’t know you or your illness and they don’t know what’s best for you, but you do. Have your own strategies and ideas ready that you know will work or might help. They are counting on you to help them get to a place of understanding. 4. Be clear on your value and ROI Make the return on investment clear to your boss, show them how helping you benefits the business, what you can do that you couldn’t before and how that helps your boss and your colleagues and whole team. Know your value and be confident in it, they get an amazing ROI in return for a bit of flexibility so remind them of what you bring to the table. 4. It takes a village Talk to your colleagues and make sure they are all on the same page (but ensure your manager is OK with you sharing those details first). Sharing from the outset can get out in front of any unspoken issues and resentments before they have chance to develop. Be honest with your work friends and colleagues and explain what you need and don’t need when you are ill. Everyone is different, I used to like to get a text just to say “hi” or asking if there was anything I needed help with, it reminded me I was part of something and people were thinking of me on my bad days. I have friends, however, who found any reminder of work even just a “hello” from a colleague sent them spiraling into anxiety. Make sure they know which camp you fall into and what they can do to help. 5. Give something back Don’t be the person who is always take, take, take. Your colleagues will understand things aren’t always easy for you, but they still expect a two-way street so make sure you are building good relationships. They probably have invisible struggles of their own and problems they don’t necessarily share, just like you. So, make sure to ask if you can help them too and create an environment where they can ask you for help and vice versa. 6. Team building Work related team building and out of work events can be difficult when you have an illness. The traditional physical team-building days can be exhausting even for a healthy individual, so help manage expectations and remove any bad feelings by getting involved with the planning stages. Is there a person who always organizes work events? If so, reach out and make that person your new best friend! Make it clear how much you value your team and let them know you are open to having your brain picked about making the events inclusive and fun for everyone. 7. Use your emotional intelligence Chronic illness often makes you more empathetic and a bit more clued-up on what is going on for other people, so use that emotional intelligence to your favor. Know what matters to your manager and your team, think about what motivates them and what is important to them. Also think about what they don’t like and what annoys them. This will help you to focus on doing more to help with those things, avoiding words and subjects which are triggers for them and use more language that will appeal to their personality. Any idea which helps towards things they care about and removes more of things they don’t like while also providing you help or flexibility is going to sound good to them. For example, you might be able to sway some flexibility if as part of that, something else important to that person gets done. Maybe there is a task or project that requires quiet and focus that just isn’t getting done in a noisy office environment that could be one of your tasks on a work from home day? Think outside the box and see how your situation can benefit the whole team. 8. Know your audience Know how your boss and colleagues prefer to communicate; do they like to have something to read first and think about it, or do they like lists and bullet points or spreadsheets? Do they prefer in-person, do they like to be prepared or go with the flow? What you say is only as effective as how you say it and how they receive it, so make sure you set yourself up for success by tweaking how you deliver what you have to say. Disclosure isn’t for everyone, but it can be an amazing way to connect with your co-workers in a way you haven’t been able to before and another tool in your toolkit for managing work and health. You can join my free community on Facebook at the link in my profile. Just click on my name. Stay classy warrior workers!

Community Voices

Pass the parcel

I disappear sometimes
The real me
You can still see her
The one with my face
But inside I have
climbed down a ladder
into my feet
Opened the hatch in my toes
And off I go
I’m off somewhere
in my own world
trying to find myself again
she’s broken free
seeking out new adventures
Restless of the “nearly’s”
Bored of the “almost’s”

She is tearing away at the sparkle
of the next layer
of the pass the parcel paper.
And then through the tears
and the joy
I see what she sees
Sat among the colourful ruins
A glint of purpose
A glimpse of possibility
She is me just as before
but more translucent
a little lighter
a little freer
A little more the girl I was

And my restless little soul
Happy
Content
with her shiny new finds
returns home a while
Through the hatch
Up the ladder
She reaches my face
And the smile can reach
my eyes again

But she is like a cat
she does not belong
to anyone
or any place
And when she senses something
hidden and shadowy
A glimmer of light
something not of this life... yet
she will prowl and claw
and scratch
to find it's source
Purring wildly with anticipation
Ripping violently apart
what was and what is
Until there is only
What will be.

I reappear sometimes
Not that you can tell I've been gone
But I am not the me you knew
I am not even the me I know
I don't know her yet
And she will not be the last
She is one of many I will know
The many faces of me
The many lives
I've not yet seen
Today is just the ripped paper
of tomorrow's pass the parcel
Colourful
Exciting
The promise of a new day
And a new me
I can't wait to meet me

Jennifer Bell ©2018

#MightyPoets #MySymptoms #Depression #ChronicFatigueSyndrome #Anxiety

2 people are talking about this
Community Voices

Pass the parcel

I disappear sometimes
The real me
You can still see her
The one with my face
But inside I have
climbed down a ladder
into my feet
Opened the hatch in my toes
And off I go
I’m off somewhere
in my own world
trying to find myself again
she’s broken free
seeking out new adventures
Restless of the “nearly’s”
Bored of the “almost’s”

She is tearing away at the sparkle
of the next layer
of the pass the parcel paper.
And then through the tears
and the joy
I see what she sees
Sat among the colourful ruins
A glint of purpose
A glimpse of possibility
She is me just as before
but more translucent
a little lighter
a little freer
A little more the girl I was

And my restless little soul
Happy
Content
with her shiny new finds
returns home a while
Through the hatch
Up the ladder
She reaches my face
And the smile can reach
my eyes again

But she is like a cat
she does not belong
to anyone
or any place
And when she senses something
hidden and shadowy
A glimmer of light
something not of this life... yet
she will prowl and claw
and scratch
to find it's source
Purring wildly with anticipation
Ripping violently apart
what was and what is
Until there is only
What will be.

I reappear sometimes
Not that you can tell I've been gone
But I am not the me you knew
I am not even the me I know
I don't know her yet
And she will not be the last
She is one of many I will know
The many faces of me
The many lives
I've not yet seen
Today is just the ripped paper
of tomorrow's pass the parcel
Colourful
Exciting
The promise of a new day
And a new me
I can't wait to meet me

Jennifer Bell ©2018

#MightyPoets #MySymptoms #Depression #ChronicFatigueSyndrome #Anxiety

2 people are talking about this

ME/CFS: Finding Work Options With a Chronic Illness

My luckiest moment in life was wrapped up in my unluckiest… I stretched myself so hard with illness and my career that when I finally found a role closer to home with less stress, the damage had already been done. Know that elastic band theory people talk about where you stretch and stretch and it’s not until you relax that it goes snap? Well, that was me in what was meant to be my new relaxed role. In my first three months I came down with shingles, flu and a chest infection. All in an environment where I couldn’t go into work with anything contagious. I was working for a healthcare service and colleagues who worked with the elderly, so vulnerable people were coming and going all day long. So not only was I sick in my new role, but even while I was physically able to work I couldn’t due to the risks to my colleagues. I felt like I had become the most useless employee and all in my probation period with people counting on me for important projects. To be honest I was waiting for the penny to drop and it wasn’t that great a surprise when it did. Suddenly I was jobless, with no plan B… oh, and I was about to get married two weeks later with a honeymoon still to pay for. I just couldn’t believe this was happening, but at the same time I felt this great sense of relief. I couldn’t work out how I could feel relieved – this was absolutely the worst case scenario and I was secretly happy? What the fuck was that about?!   The truth was this… I was not happy and had not been happy for a very long time. I had somehow managed to survive in my career despite having a sickness record that must have broken some kind of world record. It helped a great deal that I was a rockstar at what I did. I don’t care about being big-headed, I was. I was one of the best at what I did and I took pride in it. It had always been my get out of jail free card when it came to my work and my sickness, but my luck had run out and now I had to face the reality that I had two options ahead of me: 1. Find a way to spin me losing my job and get back into my career 2. Walk away from my career and do something else Option one was tempting. I was good at spinning things and talking my way out of difficult situations, but I knew even for me it would be hard to spin… anyone with a working brain could see I was not a well woman. All the evidence showed I was a ticking time-bomb that had already exploded once and could again at any moment. And when I realized that, I wondered, if everyone else could see it, why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t I accept that my body just needed a break? Why couldn’t I accept it was OK that I needed to get off the merry-go-round and heal? It took some soul-searching but that’s what I did. I walked away from a career that was toxic – I loved it but I hated it too. I was addicted to the success and the work but it made me ill. It was not the thing for me because nothing that makes you ill – mentally or physically – is good for you. Fast forward to now and I work for myself part of the time and have a part-time work-from-home job too. It’s nothing like what I did before – it’s not even what my qualifications and studies prepared me for. I spend most of my time now helping overwhelmed professionals stay with sass or leave with class, in a spoonie-friendly environment, and the rest of my time teaching English online. It’s different to anything I could have imagined but it gives me the flexibility I need to give my body what it needs when it needs it, and most importantly I am happier than I ever was. I started my business because I looked back with hindsight and wondered what it was I had needed help with most when I was struggling in my work-life. I needed someone to help me work out what the right thing was for me, what would make me happy. I needed someone to help me see what amazing value I had as a human being just because of all I had been through, regardless of job descriptions and qualifications. I really wish I had someone to help me manage my work and the workplace issues before I got into a cycle of becoming sicker and sicker with less and less options. The truth was if I had the help back then I would have more options and options are like gold. If I have one piece of advice for anyone with an illness and a job, it is to cultivate options. Lots of them. Sensible ones, silly ones, fanciful and grandiose, small and simple… whatever… just have a bunch of them up your sleeve. Leaving my career to work for myself worked for me but it’s been a difficult journey and one I had to work out pretty much on my own because no one out there seemed to offer what I needed. Working for yourself is not for everyone, especially for spoonies, so instead of trying to tell you I have the magic answer (which nobody does!), one of the key things I help people with is looking at all the options available to you. And here are some of my top six tips if you are thinking about your work options: 1. Allow yourself to dream big and silly. There is no such thing as a ridiculous idea, there are only ideas… you never know where that idea will take you. 2. Don’t worry about what other people think – they don’t live your life so they don’t get to have an opinion. 3. Don’t get caught up on there being one right answer for you. This world is full of multi-passionate, multi-interest people and there is no such thing as a job for life anymore. So there doesn’t need to be one thing for you either. 4. Know these three things or work on finding them out: what you love, what your values are, what you want most. 5. Don’t worry about the thing you want to do not existing! You really can create your own role in this world. Think about it… think of all the weird and wonderful jobs that exist now that didn’t exist when you were in school or when your parents were looking for jobs. The world is always changing and that means there are always new opportunities. 6. Ban the words “can’t” and “shouldn’t” from your vocabulary when thinking about options. Using those two words kills your imagination dead before you even get started. Even if you really think something isn’t physically possible for you, add it to your options anyway – you never know where that train of thought will take you. You can join my free community on Facebook at the link on my profile. Just click on my name. Stay classy, warrior-workers. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Thinkstock photo via Anna_Isaeva.

Don't Sell Yourself Short in the Work Place Because You're Ill

The thing about chronic illness is that it doesn’t just rob you of your physical and mental abilities. It robs you of a little piece of you on the inside too, and that’s the part of it that is difficult to explain or put into words for other people. The whole focus of your life changes, things that were priorities get dropped, relationships, goals, things you found important before get thrown into perspective against a constant backdrop of pain and struggle. The thing that hit me hardest were the things against which I used to measure my worth in the world had to change. To begin with, I didn’t realize this, so I kept judging myself harshly against those old measures and continually feeling the disappointment of never quite living up to my own expectations. My career became a self-torture device to raise myself up, just enough to fall back down again. As someone who works with people to find their work life happy place, there is a phrase I hear repeated over and over by all sorts of people, from all sort of backgrounds – regardless of their health situation. It’s a repeating mantra of, “I want to do what will make me happy, but I don’t know what that is.” It’s a phrase that hits me in the heart because I remember a point in my life, a turning-point of sorts, when I realized the sad truth that I had completely lost myself. I didn’t know what had happened to that girl I used to know. The fiery, passionate, creative person who knew she was meant for greatness. I had no idea where that girl was or what happened to her, but I didn’t see her in the mirror any more. I missed her laugh, her ridiculous dancing, her “fuck what anyone else thinks” attitude. I cried for her as much as I cried for my friends passing who had set this whole self-discovery in motion in the first place. I was grieving for my friend and grieving for myself at the same time because I had just lost a friend who, despite all my struggles and all the changes, always saw me for me underneath the illness armor. He loved the girl I was and without him I wondered who was going to lead me back to me. It was then that I realized that no one else could get me there, I had to rediscover myself – not the me I used to be, but a new me that respected the journey I’d been on. There are a lot of people overwhelmed and unfulfilled in their work and I feel like in our spoonie community this number is far higher. For people like us who have had to just deal with all the stuff that’s been dumped on us, there’s an automatic compromise we make. We tell ourselves that we should just be happy to have any job, we should be grateful. We tell ourselves that dream jobs are for other people. We also sell ourselves short when we think that an employer is doing us a favor by dealing with our less than ordinary lives, that we are a burden when in fact we bring a hell of a lot to the table. Our skills and experience on their own make us worthy and our journey and our struggle has only made us more, not less. There are some skills you can’t teach, you can only live through and you have lived them. Ask any employer what sets someone apart from all the other applications and all the other interviews, and it is the people with integrity, grit, determination and the ability to overcome their struggles. They are the people who will keep going when the going gets tough, who aren’t afraid to learn, to adapt to changing circumstances. They make the best managers and leaders because they have emotional intelligence, empathy, they can spot the signs that someone is struggling despite the smile because they have put that same smile on for the world too. If you are a warrior worker or a warrior considering your place in the word of work, I want you to think about what unique experience and value you bring to the world. What is your superpower? What can you do like no one else you know? What has this difficult journey you’ve been on been preparing you for? What has this unique mix of experience and your personality combined to create? There is no one else in the world like you and you have value, don’t sell yourself short. You can join my free online community on Facebook at the link in my profile. Just click on my name. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock Image By: monkeybusinessimages  

Things Poker Pros Can Teach Us About Living With a Chronic Illness

Let’s face the facts: Chronic illness robs you of a lot of energy, and it can feel like you’re always playing catch-up. There never seems to be enough moments when you feel well, and the time and energy you do have is spent on all things people tell you to have do to be a good human being. Enough already! I hear you shouting, “Stop the world, I want to get off!” So you have permission to take a moment today to read some good news because I have some for you. Here’s a secret I want to let you in on: The majority of the people in this world live their lives on auto-pilot. They stay in their comfort zone and rarely move beyond it. Why? Because it’s easier, it’s comfy and it’s safe. They’re not taking an active role in their lives. The truth is that most people on this planet are as lost, if not more lost, than you! The difference between them and you is your situation has made you acutely aware of the precious nature of every day and every moment. And that gives you something they don’t have. Your obstacles have put you in a better position than most to fully appreciate this life you’ve been gifted. When we’re dealt a difficult hand in life, it’s easy to compare our lives with people who have their full health. But life isn’t what we’re given, life is what we make of it. Life is the sum total of our actions and our ability to learn and apply what we learn (or not) for better or worse. We usually think people who have been dealt the perfect hand have it made. But take it from a half-decent poker player, you can have the best hand at the table, but if you don’t know how to play the game or don’t realize you have a good hand, then you’re not going to play that hand to its full potential. Watch professional poker players. They know how to use the cards that land. They get to know their situation, they read people, they work out the pro’s and con’s and probabilities, they take chances, they trust their gut and they hone their skills and practice until it becomes second nature. So what can poker pros teach us about living with the cards we’re dealt that don’t seem so great at times: 1. See more than just your hand. You don’t get to choose the cards, but you do get to choose what you do with that hand. You can take one look at what you’re dealt and fold, or you can pause for a moment to take in your surroundings, the people around you and assess how strong a position you’re in. Maybe test the waters with a call and see how it plays out or if your luck turns. In life, you’re more than just the illness you’ve been dealt with. Just like there’s more than just the cards in play at the table, there are people, opportunities, chances and maybe just a little luck. But you’ll never know if you’re never in the game. Play with life a little and take a chance that there might be more for you than just the options you see in front of you right now. 2. Play the long game. A good player knows when to fold and knows that it’s not about winning every hand. If you’re smart enough to get to heads up — the final two players — the odds are suddenly much more favorable than when there was a table full of opponents. In other words, you don’t have to do everything and you don’t have to do it all at once. Play to win by playing it smart and by choosing your battles one hand at a time. Pick the best hands and fold the opportunities that don’t light you up or make you feel good 3. All you need is a chip and a chair. You have been given a chip and a chair in this life. It’s seat at the table and a chance to play. And you’ve been given another great advantage: Your life so far has taught you to be smart, observant, patient, and when that hand comes, you’ll know how to play it better than anyone else. You may feel like the underdog sometimes, but every dog has its day and, my warrior friend, you are still very much in the game. You can join my free community on Facebook at the link in my profile. Just click on my name. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead photo by Thinkstock Images