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Employment Barriers for the Chronically Ill

When you have a chronic illness, you can face troubles in the workplace.

Employment Barriers for the Chronically Ill

We often associate chronic illness with the elderly, but chronic illnesses are widespread among the working-age adult population. In fact, the number of chronically ill working-age adults grew by 25% in the United States from 1997 to 2006. According to the CDC, as of 2012, half of all American adults—117 million people—have one or more chronic health condition. This increase has created many more barriers for chronically ill workers, especially when their disabilities are invisible.

Employment Burdens When You Are Chronically Ill

Ryan, now 28, was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) when she was just 15 months old. She shares some of her experiences seeking out employment while trying to cope with JRA.

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Three Things No One Shared About Finding Peace in Living with Chronic Illness

No one tells you how to find peace in living with chronic illness. You have to seek that peace out on your own.

finding-peace

Imagine waking up every morning as if you hadn’t slept. Add intense pain that feels as if you have been run over by a monster truck.  And nausea and dizziness either as a result of your illness or of the medication your doctor has prescribed to treat your illness.  Imagine living like that every single day of your life for years and for the rest of your life.  That is the reality for people living with chronic illness and pain. And it has been my reality for nearly seven years.

When you live with a debilitating health condition, finding peace seems nearly impossible.  That is because pain and sickness leaves your mind and body in a constant state of alert.  No one tells you about this reality nor do they share with you that you will eventually find peace in the midst of sickness and pain.

How I Found Peace

Over the past several years, I have worked very hard to find some of kind of harmony amongst the chaos that chronic illness has brought to my life. And throughout my journey, I realized that peace is, in fact, a great possibility.

Here are three things I found out on my own about finding peace in living with my chronic illnesses.

I Can Seek Religious and Spiritual Guidance

Our days are often busy and filled with activities and responsibilities. It can help to find peace and clarity when you connect with a higher power or spiritual connection.  Every day, take the time to stop what you are doing for at least ten to fifteen minutes to meditate, pray, or enjoy nature.  It is vital to set time aside to break away from our busy and chaotic lives and seek a connection – spiritual or religious.

I have learned to look for quiet moments. I use these to reflect upon my life, my day or strengthening my connection with a higher or spiritual power.  Mostly, I just bask in the quiet.  I have learned that making this time and taking it is the best gift I offer myself as I seek peace in the middle of a life that isn’t easy with chronic illness and pain.

I Should Choose Gratitude

It is easy to get lost in your pain and illness and you lose sight of the big picture. We can find peace when we allow ourselves to grieve our losses and embrace the changes that illness imposes.  Everything in our lives will change – from our careers to our families to our finances and even our bodies.  And change happens whether we choose to accept it or not. But when we decide we can love ourselves just as we are and we grateful for all life gives us, we truly find peace and contentment.

I choose to be more than my pain and illness.  And I believe that I am perfect as I am. Moreover, I accept whatever life gives with an attitude focused on gratitude.

I Can Lean on Loved Ones and Friends for Support

It can be difficult to ask for help from others especially if we are asking for help with activities and tasks we used to do with ease. We may accept help because we desperately need it but we carry guilt and shame for needing assistance.

I have found I often carry unrealistic expectations when it comes to those closest to me handling tasks differently than I do.  In my frustration, I have either lashed out at loved ones or performed tasks when I was not feeling up to par. But I have found peace in letting go of imperfection and I respect those offering support. I now ask for help when I need it and accept it graciously. Mostly, I am appreciative of loved ones and friends who allow me to lean on them on them for support.

You Deserve Peace

After seven years of living with chronic illness and pain and the challenges posed, I am grateful for finding peace in at the center of all of the turmoil.  Each of us deserves peace, including you. Giving up is easy but fighting for what you deserve takes courage and determination. And you deserve to have the best version of yourself regardless of your illness, pain levels or disability. Once you see that having peace is your right, you will be happy even when life isn’t easy.  It is all worth it and you are worth it.  Fight to find peace so you can have the life you deserve.

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Chronic Illness: The Don’ts of My Successful Journey

You would think writing about my journey with chronic illness would be easy. After all, who else would know my journey and the struggles that came with being sick better than me? But it was not until I sat down to put the words on paper that I realized that journey was a chaotic and crazy but one that I have learned from and can laugh at now. But seven years ago, I wasn’t confident or laughing. Back then, I was scared, angry, and full of grief. I was wallowing in self-pity, riding emotional rollercoasters, and dwelling on the past while fearing the future.

A Successful Journey Thus Far

My chronic illness journey hasn’t been easy or smooth sailing. But it hasn’t been a complete utter nightmare either. If anything, it has allowed me to grow into a person who might fear the storms ahead but who is willing to ride through those storms with strength and determination. And for that reason alone, I consider my chronic illness journey, at least from my perspective, to be quite successful thus far.

You might think that acceptance, strength, and perseverance aren’t easy feats.  And you are absolutely right because it has taken me a long time to get to a point in my life where my two chronic illnesses, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia, don’t dictate my life’s path. They don’t determine my abilities as a mother or friend or daughter or sister or employee.  They don’t decide my career path and my ability to love or be happy. If anything, there are minor obstacles in life full of many bigger obstacles. And truth be told, I wasn’t always this self-assured and sometimes, I can’t be but there is a journey that got me here and lessons I take with me as I live a rather unordinary and sometimes, difficult life.

Here are three don’ts of my successful journey with chronic illness.

Don’t Wallow in Self-Pity

The late Christopher Reeve a.k.a. Superman was great example of someone who didn’t allow self-pity to consume his life.  After breaking his neck in a horseback riding accident and becoming a quadriplegic in 1995, he choose to not see himself as a patient but a person and he did not allow self-pity to dictate his day-in-day. In a 1996 New York Times interview, he shared the following: “Yes, it was terrible what happened to me. But why should I be exempt? I had one very unlucky and unpredictable moment. The choice is whether to wallow in self-pity and musings about the past or to take a pro-active stance about the future.”

Mr. Reeve was a superman both on the screen and off.  His story inspires me along my journey with chronic illness. We don’t have to be disabled or sick to understand that self-pity is a small thing in the grand scheme of it all. We don’t all have to have the same adversities but we can acknowledge struggle and realize that triumph is even bigger and greater.

My struggle with chronic illness may different than someone else’s hardship but whether you are in an abusive situation trying to get it or trying to raise your children without the help of another parent, or trying to escape the past or even addiction, it’s your choice to wallow in self-pity or to be proactive in making your life better.  We all get to be the superman or superwoman in our lives.

Don’t Forget To Get Off the Emotional Rollercoaster

Grieving any loss, whether it’s an illness, divorce or a loss of employment, can be quite challenging. However, I have learned how important it is to engage in some method of grieving to react and adjust to your situation. While grief is healthy, it can also be an emotional rollercoaster that includes periods of numbness and shock, anger, denial, intense emotional pain, and so much more.  If you don’t allow yourself to grieve, your emotional pain can become destructive.

Practice expressing your feelings of grief through writing, crying, music and talking to others about what you are feeling.   Watch out for symptoms of depression, such as trouble sleeping, extreme sadness, lack of energy and suicidal thoughts, and talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these.

My grieving timetable is different than the next person’s and changes to my health still provoke additional feelings of loss and force me back onto that emotional rollercoaster. While on that ride, I focus on grieving in healthy ways and then, I get off that rollercoaster as soon as I can.

Don’t Dwell on Past – Focus on the Future

One of my biggest fears was the facing the future with chronic illness. I couldn’t predict what my life would be like five years or ten years and that scared me. Once I connected with others who had been living with chronic illness for many years, I realized that a good quality life with and despite chronic illness was possible. Interestingly, my health challenges have taken my life in a direction I would have never taken without chronic illness. And that is has been a great thing.  However, it has not been all smooth sailing and I sometimes wonder what direction my life would have gone had I not gotten sick.  Would have been successful in law school and as a lawyer? What if my marriage had survived and if I had more children like I wanted? I could ponder these questions until I am blue in the face but I can’t change what’s happened. I can only move forward, not dwell on the past and focus on the future. We often miss out on the blessings of the future because we are too busy dwelling on the past, especially when that past involved good health. It is understandably difficult to focus on the future when your life is filled with pain and sickness. But hope for the future gives us the strength to face so many of life’s challenges – whether they pertain to our health or not. The past is dim, and sometimes dark, but the future can be quite bright.

Still My Life, Just a Little Altered

My life with chronic illness isn’t the life that I envisioned and often, it is out of my control. The only things I control are my behavior and my reactions and that where the “don’ts” of my journey come into play.  And while there are ways in which I manage my illnesses and cope, I don’t dictate the direction in which my health is headed. My life involves being sick and in pain every single day. But because I have lived with RA and fibromyalgia for almost seven years, I have learned to channel most of what I am feeling – both physically and emotionally – out.  Being sick has become one small obstacle in my life and unless I am having a bad flare day, I continue to march on. My normal is something that no one can see but it is still my life, just a little altered.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis: 3 Pain-Reducing New Year’s Resolutions

Here are three simple things you can do this new year to improve your RA.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: 3 Pain-Reducing New Year’s Resolutions

At least half of the American population makes New Year’s resolutions and promises to improve their lives on January 1. But when you have a chronic condition, like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), New Year’s resolutions seem harder to make and stick with over the long term. Nonetheless, they are worth making and it is very possible to keep them.

Getting Started

Changing bad habits and adopting new ones can make a big difference in reducing your RA symptoms and pain. READ MORE.

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3 Resolutions to Help You Manage Fibromyalgia This New Year

Here are three simple things you can do this new year to improve your fibromyalgia.

3 Resolutions to Help You Manage Fibromyalgia This New Year

As another New Year approaches, you may have New Year’s resolutions in mind, but you think setting them is a waste of time. Because when you experience pain, fatigue, brain fogginess and other fibromyalgia symptoms, you think any resolution is difficult to accomplish. There are, however, plenty of realistic goals people with fibromyalgia can set and accomplish.

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7 Rules for Living Well With Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness doesn’t have to be hard

7 Rules for Living Well With Chronic Illness

A diagnosis of a chronic illness means you are sick and your illness is never going away. It is natural to feel a sense of injustice over the loss of something you thought you had control over. But living with chronic illness doesn’t have to be hard if we establish rules to make it easier.

Here are seven rules that have helped me to live well despite rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Rule 1: Trust Yourself to Find Answers

One of the most difficult things I dealt with in the ten plus years I was searching for answers was the possibility that all my symptoms were in my head. My being sick meant I had to trust in myself to find the right answers and not to let others deter me. There are going to be people along the way, including family, friends, and even members of the medical community, who will try to convince you that your symptoms are “all your head.” These people are ignorant and will never understand what your illness and symptoms are about. Don’t let their perceptions make you doubt yourself and your need for answers.

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Things No One Told Me: Fibromyalgia and Having Dreams

Learn how to make your dreams happen despite living with fibromyalgia.

Things No One Told Me: Fibromyalgia and Having Dreams

No one ever shared with me any secrets to achieving my dreams despite chronic illness. It was something I had to learn all on my own. And when I did, that understanding changed everything for me. I assured myself that I could continue to achieve my dreams and work towards new ones, despite the fact that chronic illness was now a part of my life.

Making Dreams Possible

Being chronically ill isn’t easy and it requires constant work and patience, in addition to a willingness to overcome adversity. My chronic illnesses, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, regularly try to pull me away from my goals, but I force myself to stay focused on the things I need to do. Over the years, chronic illness has forced me to question the possibility of my dreams. There have been many occasions where I have asked: How does someone living with illness, daily pain, doctor’s appointments, and medication achieve dreams?

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Fibromyalgia: Three Things You Need to Know about Patient Empowerment

Learn how to take your fibromyalgia healthcare into your own hands and approach your doctor in a more confident, educated way.

Fibromyalgia: Three Things You Need to Know about Patient Empowerment

It is very difficult for patients to do what they don’t understand. Therefore, it is vital to arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to take a more active role in your healthcare.

Patient empowerment allows patients to take an active role in the decisions they make about their health. Moreover, empowerment requires patients to take responsibility through open communication with their doctors, taking medications as prescribed,eating healthy and exercising regularly. It also allows them to create a joint partnership with their doctors where change can actually be long lasting.

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Nine Ways to Cope with Fibromyalgia Brain Fog

Do you have fibro fog?

Nine Ways to Cope with Fibromyalgia Brain Fog

Are you forgetful? Do have trouble concentrating or speaking correctly? Do you often feel confused, fuzzy or detached? If so, you are likely experiencing a cognitive dysfunction that affects many with fibromyalgia. Referred to as fibro fog, cognitive issues can be frustrating to you and those around you.

They affect self-confidence and strain relationships. Fibro fog can also affect your ability to perform on the job and manage your daily life.

Most fibromyalgia patients experience some form of fibro fog. The symptoms of fibro fog are difficult and include being forgetful, feeling confused, being unable to concentrate, struggling with speech and even affect hand-eye movements. Each fibromyalgia sufferer will experience fibro fog differently and the fogs can come and go. Sometimes, you can have them with a fibro flare and other times, without.

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5 Things to Keep In Mind When Talking to Someone with Chronic Illness

 How you can maintain good communication and relieve tension in your relationship.

5 Things to Keep In Mind When Talking to Someone with Chronic Illness

When people we love are sick and in pain, we want to wish them love and encouragement, offer support and motivate them to be hopeful. Unfortunately, our words aren’t always interpreted in the manner we intend. This is because people with chronic illness do not feel like everyone else and rather than feeling supported, they often feel misunderstood. Often times, the lack of communication can permanently affect relationships. And chronic pain, fatigue and other disease symptoms are stressful enough without the added stress created from tense relationships.

Here are five things to keep in mind when talking to loved ones living with chronic illness:

1. They need us to believe them.

Believe it or not, it is not uncommon for chronic illness sufferers to say that they were accused of faking or exaggerating symptoms. When they react to these accusations, they are seen as overly sensitive or believed to have misunderstood a situation. Even statements like “but you don’t look sick,” can strike a nerve because they imply that we do not believe the person. When a chronically ill person says she is hurting or feeling extremely tired, she needs us to believe she is telling the truth.

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