As hard as we may try to not let MS get in our way, sometimes sadly, it just does. The workplace can be one of the more stressful challenges to our balance; the physical and mental demands of work can be draining, and sometimes just bad for your health.
I was in my early thirties and had been diagnosed for only 18 months when I reached this breaking point and had to make the agonizing decision to leave my job. I loved my job. I had worked hard for my teaching degrees and I worked even harder for my students. I loved what I did, and dammit, MS was NOT going to take this away from me. Yet, I was losing my mobility very quickly and the fatigue was just crushing. Colleagues were covering for me, and I started to realize that I wasn’t even giving my students all that they needed. It was hard, but I had to get very honest with myself and ask some really tough questions. I will share them with you, in case you are at that stage and trying to evaluate if your career is still working for you.
Who am I hurting? This was a huge; umbrella-of-a-question that would hold the key to whether or not I left. I realized after a year-and-a-half of holding on to my job, I was hurting everyone. My colleagues, who were risking their own livelihoods by covering for me. My students, because I could barely hold my head up, much less deliver engaging lessons. Myself, The stress of “faking” it, was exhausting. And last but not least, my family because at the end of the say I was so exhausted that I would crawl into bed and was unable to care for or have much fun with my own young kids.
Can I do my job? This overlaps with the hurting question… Ask yourself the same thing. Can I still ROCK at this job, or am I basically just trying to make it to a seat behind a desk and holding on until 5 PM when I can leave? MS or not, I don’t ever want to waste my life or my time.
Am I afraid? I’m throwing this in to make sure you are awake, but I also need you to know this-you will always be afraid. Waiting until you are NOT afraid to leave your job is not the way to go because that day will never come. You will always be afraid of the unknown. You will be afraid of not knowing what the next chapter holds. That’s NORMAL. Do not let fear hold you back. Fear is only good on a basic, animalistic level, about 10% of the time. The rest of the time fear serves as the enemy and it holds us back from doing what we want to do, what we should be doing, or what is best for us.
One last bit of advice – if you answer these questions and realise it is time to leave your job, know that that does not mean you are losing. In the beginning of my MS journey, I felt like giving up my job meant I was giving in to my illness - like MS was winning. That was such faulty thinking. Recognizing your challenges, adapting accordingly, is survival. It is smart. If you need to rearrange your life to accommodate your needs, you’re winning.
A few weeks ago I WALKED into that same school I had to leave some 3 years ago and was able to dedicate a book to my first class I have ever taught there; a published book with my name on it! How awesome is that? I would not have written my book had I never left.
I hope sharing my story will give you hope that you too can re-invent yourself and find a new path if it is necessary. Changing your job does not mean you are losing. By putting your own needs first, and taking care of yourself - you are always winning.
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