Work, No Work and Tick Boxes

I can’t get to sleep.  Another transient insomnia attack.  Sigh.

I haven’t written much about work since I’ve been sick.  I’ve avoided any details of my situation with just about everyone except a couple of friends, my husband and my parents.

My current period of absence from work due to ill health runs from mid December – so that’s nearly 10 months now.  Work have been in touch asking to set up a meeting with Occupational Health to look at “timescales” with regard to my return to work.  It’s routine stuff – but it’s NOT MY ROUTINE so it feels disruptive.  I can’t help but look at my work situation with a letter like that hanging around.

I am incredibly fortunate in many ways.  I’m financially sound (even though my wages ceased in the summer) thanks to the hard work and support of my husband.  I know not everyone is in such a good position.  You’ll have to forgive me but this might even help to know that even where money is not a factor this kind of stuff is still not easy – so you’re not alone if you struggle with it.

I’ve been reluctant to talk about work because I don’t want to risk muddying things with my employer.  I want to blog freely and vent some of this from my system – but it’s not sensible right now.

The union are making enquiries of my behalf about possible voluntary redundacy or some kind of deal.  Which they are doing with my blessing. 

But the reality that I could soon by unemployed feels both wonderful and terrible. 

Wonderful to be free of the worry about work would be a huge relief.  Free to get on with life and try to find ways to work and earn in the future that are more flexible to my fluctuating health needs.  Not worryng about timescales or letting anyone down or having to answer to anyone about whether I am better or not.  Being a person first and foremost.

Terrible to have no status – to be unemployed – to have lost my job through ill health.  To be a statistic of another employee turned unemployed by CFS and not have been a shining exception to the rule.  To somehow not be strong enough to have fought this illness off and not have it dictate my life decisions.  To have a working life ended, after fighting so hard to get to a good job and a good wage that made me proud.  To fade away and never have the opportunity to beam at my colleagues and tell them I am leaving my job for something even better.  To have failed somehow.

It’s a huge transition.  It’s totally new terrain.

I have had a fierce sense of independence for all my adult life.  Now I find myself reliant on someone else.  And in the back of my mind scared to death what will happen if that is ever gone.  Will I ever earn a decent wage again?  A wage to live your life by? To support your family with?

Will I ever be well again?  Will I ever go for long walks?  Cycle?  Work eight hours a day?  Take things in my stride?

Will I cope with just being?  Not having a working label or status anymore?

When people ask me “And what do you do?” what will I say? “I’m accomplished at living a tiny life with pain and fatigue.  And you?”.  Well, that would require the energy to go out and meet new people in order to be asked – so perhaps no need to worry on that count.

Which tick box will I tick in the future? Or do I (like my husband said) draw my own tick box on the form?

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6 Responses to “Work, No Work and Tick Boxes”


  1. 1 bbabe October 9, 2007 at 1:16 am

    Hey, well from someone who did lose there job from illness; I understand. I really hate to tell people I don’t work. In fact, just today when I was talking to someone at the graduate school I’m about to attend I had to admit I didn’t work and I really didn’t want to. Your job isn’t who you are though, it doesn’t define you. Maybe if you do end up quitting your job you will have some relief that it isn’t hanging over your head. Don’t worry about what other people think. I know what you mean though; even though I have health problems I feel like I will be judged for not working or people will see me as lazy. It is really none of their business though, but I know how you feel. It is hard for people to understand chronic illness if they don’t have it. Hold your chin up you are not alone.

  2. 2 Rachel M October 9, 2007 at 9:55 am

    I still cannot get used to tick the box of “unemployed”. And I will never be. I know exactly how you feel… It is such an awful category, isn’t it? Especially when you are forced to be in the category against own will due to severe illness.
    Recently, I started to tick “retired”, unless I really really have to completely honest… Technically, I’m not lying. 😉

  3. 3 ouiser October 9, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    I tell folks I’m a “stay-at-home-mom.” I even resigned my position with that excuse, thinking I could return easier when I was well. But back then, I thought I’d get a handle on this very quickly. I had no idea I’d be this sick this long! Damn pride!

    Glad to hear you got out an about to enjoy some sunshine! A “water park” here in the states is usually an amusement park with water slides and such, he, he. Had to think about that for a minute and wonder how you managed that! I figured out what you meant, though. Maybe next summer you’ll mean the amusement water park?

  4. 4 Connie October 10, 2007 at 3:34 am

    I still remember making the decision to stop working. It was so painful and disorienting. They say that men define themselves by their work well women do too. I had to see a Counselor due to the depression I felt about leaving work.

    But realizing and accepting that my family as well as me were missing out helped me to accept that I could not work anymore. If I worked there was no energy for me and none at all for my family.

    It’s a tough road especially for us women who enjoyed work and likened it to making a contribution. That’s way I do what I do now. I really try to advocate for people like us. I feel more sane now than ever!

  5. 5 Michelle October 10, 2007 at 4:13 am

    I remember when I found out that I had won my disability case it was bittersweet because while I was so grateful I was finally going to be getting an income, it was only because the State had declared me useless. And two years earlier when my therapist said that it was time for me to think about going on disability, I was blown over. I mean, what on earth would I do with all that *time* everyday?

    While each of us is different and unique, your post is definitely something I can relate to a great deal. Since finally dropping out of grad school two years ago, I’ve found myself trying to answer that question “what do you do?” with various answers: hermit, disability paperwork specialist, health care utilization specialist, rester — though that last one never sounds quite as clever. 😉

    I wish you all the best during your transition. I can say that it is wonderful being able to sleep in as long as you need to. And Netflix (not sure if that’s made it to the UK, though I think Amazon has something similar to it) is a great friend.

  6. 6 Ace 3000 October 10, 2007 at 6:20 am

    As previously stated by bbabe, you are not your job.

    It is society as a whole that wants to put people into little boxes. Not fitting neatly into any of those boxes, or not wishing to be classified as one thing or another, should be a cause for celebration not stress. It is “thinking outside the box” in its truest sense (and has absolutely nothing to do with meaningless business-speak).

    But there is something very important you need to realise. From what I have seen you do have a status – you are an artist.

    That’s a fantastic achievement.


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