Hello! And welcome to the third part of my story. Here, I am sharing details related to my own journey with autoimmune disease. If you like what you read or would like to start back at the beginning of my journey, please check out Part 1 (Childhood Edition) and/or Part 2 (The College Years). Now, onto my 3-year attempt at employment in business and my return to school!
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I receive a small commission that I use to keep this blog running, to positively manage medical costs, and to help support my family. Thank you so much! You can read my full disclosure policy here.
Joining the Workforce
Once I graduated from college, I was super excited to get out into the workforce. Originally, I obtained a pretty good job as an administrative assistant for a mental health-related company and really did enjoy my work (most days); however, I started to notice an inability to focus, small ‘flares’ that occurred on the easiest of days, and a sudden return to health-related chaos. I kept wondering why my symptoms were slowly returning even though I had yet to pack a lunch in the last 3 weeks. I was constantly eating out (hey, they were mostly salads) and ‘cheating’ on the diet I had followed before. I also found myself with more stress than I would have liked and found myself questioning my choice earlier where I finished my degree just to complete a program instead of taking some time off and returning to school to hopefully finish and obtain the degree I had actually wanted.
I mean, business is a great profession, but it involves more numbers than lessons, more typing than creative projects, and more paperwork than written essays and my creativity was constantly feeling stunted. I was unhappy, stressed, and anxious and could not figure out where I ‘fit’ in this awkward and uncomfortable business world. I have never been a 9-5-er so to speak and the thought of going to an office each and every day, dressing professionally, and answering the phone while filing papers did not seem very appealing to me. Over time, my health continued to get worse and I found myself needing to take a day off here and a day off there to ‘rest and recover’. Most of the time, I used these days to catch up on sleep and try to figure out where I should go from here.
Eventually, I started missing more work than my supervisors liked and they began to ask questions. I was honest and told them I was having some health issues that were very similar to symptoms and challenges I had before and that I needed to return to my gastroenterologist and hash things out yet again. At first, my employer did not mind but once I ran out of that coveted PTO time, I was at a loss as to how to handle my symptoms and doctors’ appointments long-term. It was at this time that both my employer and myself agreed it was time for us to part ways and that I should look for another job.
3 Years of Staggered Employment
This then triggered a cycle of staggered employment. I would find a new job, do well for a month or two, and then my symptoms would flare. I would have to take some time off from work that I usually didn’t have and my employers would frown at my inability to keep up with my work. Don’t get me wrong; I did good work and stayed on track when I could physically be in the office. My performance was not the problem; the problem was the time I needed to stay at home or attend a doctor’s appointment (that, of course, does not occur after normal business hours) and deal with my health problems. After about 3-4 months of trying to work with one employer, I would find another. And another. And another. And the cycle would continue until my resume looked like layers of lights on a Christmas tree.
Slowly, I started to realize that unless I could find a job that I could do from home, I was not going to successfully achieve steady employment. During this time, I also kept seeing gastroenterologist after gastroenterologist that still could not diagnosis my symptoms. I had a few repeated colonoscopies and endoscopies and inflammation was still found in the same areas again, with no known cause. With what seemed like no end in sight, I finally decided to return to school and finish the education degree I had originally started. I figured if I could push through student teaching and obtain my teaching certification then at least I could focus on working on school days and resting on school breaks and holidays. This all sounded like a great plan to me.
My Return to School
My goal when I first attended college from 2004 to 2007 was to become a high school English teacher; however, problems with my health seemed to hold me back from being able to complete student teaching. I had trouble attending classes in person and had to work with my professors through private study just to finish the courses I had. When I returned to school, my situation was no different. I still had trouble attending classes and had to work with my professors (who thankfully knew me from my last attempt) to meet the requirements I needed to student teach. Finally, after 3 years in the business world and 1 year in the remaining classes I needed, I was able to schedule my time to student teach. All that was standing in my way was one certification test, 3 months of student teaching in a school, and health problems that were not easing up or going away.
Friends, I am very thankful for my situation. If it wasn’t for my parents and my eventual husband, I never would have had the support or energy to follow through with this dream of becoming a teacher. I never would be where I am now (I work from home full-time right now by the way) and probably would have given up on my autoimmune journey a long time ago. In a world full of confusion and insecurity, please always find that sunflower, that support person or system that will help you through when times get tough.
So, what about you? Who do you turn to when times get tough? Do you look at the blessings you have or the challenges you face?
As you are reading, please do remember that I am not a medical professional, nurse, health coach, or any other health professional of any kind. I am a patient with years of experience with autoimmune disease and will be sharing information and resources from a patient’s perspective; however, please do keep in mind that anything that I share here should not replace any medical advice you should receive from a doctor or other medical professional. Please consult with your doctor before changing anything in your routine or care. You can read more about this here.