Posts Tagged ‘chronic illness’

Picture courtesy of Rosalind Joffe

Picture courtesy of Rosalind Joffe

Rosalind Joffe has written a great book for working women who have autoimmune diseases. She has been promoting her book through this virtual book tour. There are tips on disclosing the illness, how to succeed in the workplace when only your skill set is no longer enough, and what to do if you get fired by your boss, or your body, or both.

We are giving away a copy of the book to the person who can best answer this question.

What is your biggest challenge at work and how will reading this book help solve it?

I recently interviewed Rosalind with some questions of my own. I will let her take it from here.

Looking down the rabbit hole:


1. Why do you encourage women with a CI to work? Is there an additional benefit of working as compared to healthy women who do not work?  (I am referring to loss of resources and finding a balance.) Actually, we (my co-author, Joan and I) wrote the book as a support for those who want to work but find too many impediments in the way. As a chronic illness career coach, I know there are too many variables in a decision like this to say that there is only one right way for everyone.


That said, chapter 2, Why you should keep working, makes the case that continuing  to work helps you maintain your physical, social, mental and financial health. I site specific studies that support this notion.  But no doubt about it —working can be difficult. It’s not easy to find an organization where unpredictable health doesn’t lead to being marginalized, to find co-workers who support you and don’t resent you, and to earn a salary/benefits that meets your needs. But I urge you to consider the long term, rather than focusing on the immediate demands of young children or the difficulties of a severe time in an illness that could improve. 

Finally, I think (but haven’t seen any research to support this) that it is even more valuable for women with CI to keep working. I describe this in detail in Chapter 2 but here are some highlights: 

  • There is a higher rate of divorce among couples with CI and if you’re single again, it’s likely you’re going to have to support yourself (or live on the poverty level income of SSDI).
  • Many of us with CI find that increasing limitations means a loss of self-esteem. As long as you’re doing work that you CAN do, work is one place where you can continue to feel valued.
  • Work offers a distraction from your body and that’s a huge piece of being able to live with CI.
  • When you have a debilitating CI that requires disclosure, it’s more difficult to re-enter the workforce after a hiatus.  It’s always easier to find a job when you’re currently employed.

  2. How does one keep emotion out of disclosure? Especially when newly diagnosed emotions are everywhere and there is no clear answer to the question, “How will this affect your ability to work?” (I broke all of your rules on disclosure).

So, if you “broke the rules”, how did it go for you? 


Obviously, there are many variables. The chapter, Talking about your Chronic Illness explores this issue in depth.  With a new diagnosis, if you’ve had to take a leave or there is a physical difference people can see, you’re “out of the closet”. Since none of us are prepared for living with illness, I suggest you seek help from someone you trust to develop the skills you need to discuss this on an on-going basis. 


Generally, I think it’s better to disclose a new diagnosis once you have a better idea of how this will go for you.  When you’ve lived through several “flares”, you’re better prepared to respond to the question:  “How does this affect your work?”  If you have to discuss it, however, be as honest as you need to be and as private as you want to be.  Remember, no one wants a sob story.  They want to know you can do your job.


As far as keeping emotion out of any discussion of CI at work, that’s about being “professional”.  All organizations have a culture with unspoken standards for acceptable behavior.  In some settings, emotional is fine.  But if you’re gushing with fear and sadness, then others pick up on this and view whatever you do or can accomplish through that lens.  That’s true whether you’re healthy or not.  Filtering your behavior is a key factor in workplace success.  Make sure you get help – either from a trusted colleague, a mentor or a coach. 


3. As a coach, how would you counsel a client who wants to start a home-based business because the demands of a full-time job is too stressful?  Joan wrote about this in the chapter, You’re Fired – by your body or your boss.  Setting up your own business means that you need at least three things: 


  1. Something that you can do that people will pay you to do
  2. Financial backing to support you while you’re getting the business of the ground
  3. Motivation, discipline, the ability to work alone and belief in yourself

 If you have all of those things, then a home based business could be a terrific solution to those of us living with unpredictable, debilitating disease.  Both Joan and I did it successfully but we’re aware of what it takes and we encourage others only when they are clear that they can meet the basic criteria I stated above.  Most people don’t make the kind of money they think they’ll make but do find that’s offset by the flexibility and freedom they get with self employment. 


Rosalind, thank you for your insight and willingness to answer our burning questions concerning work and chronic illness. Many of us have been encouraged and enlightened.



Rosalind Joffe, co-author of Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend!, is president of cicoach.com, a resource for professionals who live with chronic illness. Check out her website (http://www.cicoach.com), which is filled with resources about career challenges living with CI and her blog, Working with Chronic Illness (http://WorkingWithChronicIllness.com)


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Reviewers say, “A little book with lots of useful advice…”

I’m participating in a Virtual Book Tour with other popular bloggers to bring attention to this important new book: Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! My fellow bloggers and I want to bring attention to this important issue.

I just read the chapter “You’re Fired—By Your Body or Your Boss” and I immediately felt a connection because that happend to me. Six years ago I was fired by both my body and my boss. Join me on Nov. 24. My post will include a give-away. Details to follow.

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Megan Oltman’s post got me thinking not just about fun, but also humor. How do we find humor in the midst of adversity? Judith Newman wrote a fabulous article in the September issue of Reader’s Digest. The article, entitled When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Crack Wise, is hilarious. Her 6-year-old son has Asperger’s Syndrome and loves to skip. In fact, even though he cannot tie his shoes, zip his pants or barely write his name, his report card states that he is an above average skipper. Judith exclaims, “My son is gifted!” She can joke when, logically, she should be crying. Why? Dark humor is a form of bravery and it buffers us from stress.

Ann Cann, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, studies the role humor plays in adversity. There are many different types of humor: Polish jokes, jokes about neutral subjects, and self-deprecating humor (Rodney Dangerfield), and self-enhancing humor. The latter is the only form that has a positive effect on how people handle stress. In fact, according to Cann, self-deprecating humor can increase stress.

Self-enhancing humor or dark humor is finding the funny side of a grim situation: a divorce, illness, death, disability, and the list goes on. It can buffer us from the anxiety of being in a tough situation. Here is an example taken from Newman’s article. A man is sitting in a crematoriom shortly after his mother’s death. He saw a sign that stated, “No Smoking” and started laughing. This sign transformed a somber situation into one that was comfortable.

After reading this article, I knew I had to find something funny about Migraine Disease. This is what I came up with. The next time I am in the ER with a monster migraine, I am going to say this to the doctor. “Doc, please tell me I am not dead.” “Ok, you are not dead.” “That’s a relief; I don’t want to feel like this AND be dead.” My husband though it was hilarious.

What are your wisecracks about having Migraine Disease or other chronic illnesses?
image courtesy of Reader’s Digest. Retrieved from http://www.magazine-agent.com-sub.info/readers-digest/covers

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“But you look so good!” People with chronic invisible illnesses often hear this phrase. I am sure that it is meant to be encouraging, but often times the reality of living with a chronic illness is not visibly obvious. Rheumatiod arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, migraine, epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and lupus are all invisible chronic diseases. Side effects from medication, trying to find acceptable treatment, financial strain, and waiting for treatment to be effective are all a part of being chronically ill.

I have an invisible chronic illness. I have had Migraine Disease since my early twenties, but it didn’t have a significant impact on my life until the attacks became chronic in 2001. What is life like with an invisible chronic illness? Difficult, eye-opening, enlightening, unpredictable, limiting, sweet, exhausting, and frustrating. There is not a day that I am free from the effects of migraine disease.

Migraine Disease, like other chronic diseases, is unpredictable. Although I can tell what may trigger an attack, I never know when one will come. I may feel well enough today to work, exercise, and volunteer at church, but I don’t have any guarantees for tomorrow. But it is this unpredictability that makes me more appreciative of the good days. And having one good day is enough to give me hope of having another one.
Last Tuesday was one of those days. I did what I truly enjoy doing. I went to Jazzercise; I worked in the garden and enjoyed the sun; I cooked dinner. I smiled. Last Wednesday I woke with a migraine at 1 am. I quickly aborted the headache with a triptan, but I am now very fatigued and dealing with the postdrome effects of a migraine attack. I didn’t go to Jazzercise nor work in my garden. I won’t cook dinner. I still smiled. Why? Because I choose to. Because I will go stark raving mad if I don’t smile and laugh even on the bad days!

What to do when no one notices or (worse) questions as to whether you are ill? Smile, walk away knowing that you have something they don’t have. You have the means to live life more fully than some others do. Why? Because you can’t afford to take life for granted. You must relish the good days to sustain you over the bad. So smile…and have a good day.

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This post was found on Leslie’s blog: Getting Closer to Myself If you have questions or comments about this project, please leave them on her blogsite or email her at: gettingclosertomyself@gmail.com.

Call For Submissions!!!
*************************PLEASE FORWARD*************************
– A woman in your twenties or thirties who has a chronic illness, or
– A woman who is older, but was diagnosed with a chronic illness in your twenties or thirties?
– Are you either one of those and you blog about your illness?

If so, I am working on a project collecting essays from women about their experience with chronic illness. There are many books available that chronicle the story of one person. And they are great, but… I’m interested in providing women like me with a variety of stories that they can relate to. Although the diseases and symptoms may be different, the overall experience of chronic illness is very similar. I am also interested in having people tell their own stories.These stories should be in your own words! Tell it well and tell it from the heart!!!

Submission guidelines are the following:
– Essays should be between 5 and 20 pages.
– Please also include a few pieces of advice at the end of your essay that you think other women with chronic illness might find useful.
– Please include a paragraph or so about yourself.
– If you are so inclined, include a picture of yourself.The end goal is that these essays will be compiled and turned into an anthology for publication.


***ABOUT THE EDITOR: Leslie Rott holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Sociology from the University of Michigan. She is currently a graduate student in the sociology Ph.D. program at the U of M. Expressing talent in journalism during her days as an undergraduate student, she has written for a variety of publications, working as a reporter for The Mackinac Island Town Crier and The Michigan Daily. She currently authors the blog Getting Closer To Myself (view here), which chronicles her journey with her own illness and other aspects of her life. And she was recently interviewed by Rosalind Joffe for her widely read blog, Working With Chronic Illness. The interview can be found at (view here).

Submissions or questions? E-mail: gettingclosertomyself@gmail.com.

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