Working is a major part of reality — whether you have a chronic illness or not. Working with a chronic illness, however, can make employment a lot more challenging. Sometimes having a job while living with a chronic condition means you need to take extra precautions for the sake of your health. You may need modifications, either through your workplace, like flexible hours, or on your own, like keeping your desk drawer stocked with meds.
Of course, not every person with an illness or disability can work your standard 9-to-5. Some people might stick to remote positions or part-time opportunities. Others may not be able to work at all. Whatever your employment situation is, know that you are doing the best that you can.
To help shed light on what working with a chronic illness looks like, we asked our Mighty community to share a photo of themselves at work. You might relate to some of the photos, but if you don’t, or aren’t working at the moment, that’s OK, too.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. “I give dog assisted therapy. I never sit during therapies because I’m always helping everyone through the exercises. A seat cleared up during therapy and the pain was being a b****, so I gracefully told everyone to take a minute and let the dog be there for the people in wheelchairs. I wanted to continue the active therapy, but I needed to sit for at least a minute. I’m pretty strict with how I plan the activities for the therapy, but sometimes I get flares and just need to sit and act like it’s alright and keep on working.” – Caro A.
2. “These are just a fraction of the bruises I get from working. I lean on counters and ladders, then BAM! Bruise. (For those who are counting, the picture shows about ten.)” – Ansley D.
3. “You would never be able to tell that my brain is falling out of my skull or that I have chronic pain amongst other issues.” – Sarah T.
4. “Preventing a MCAS flare [while at work]. Anything and everything can cause a reaction.” – Gem M.
5. “I’ve been fortunate to work from home since my symptoms got worse last year. Nature breaks really help me!” – Sallie A.
6. “That’s me sitting. This was taken not long before I gave up work just over seven years ago. I was diagnosed not long before this was taken with Chiari Malformation. I had to have decompression brain surgery. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a couple of years later. It was getting tough at work towards the end. I couldn’t concentrate and I was getting dizzy and I was finding that sometimes I had to have things explained to me a few times before it would register. And I was usually so on the ball! It was very frustrating. I loved this job. It was supposed to see me to retirement age.” – Merilyn C.
7. “Working from home with my standup desk has saved me from having to quit because of lupus. It was originally an in-office job until I used the ADA and FMLA law to protect my position.” – Janeen Q.
8. “Check out my herbal tea and vitamin/supplement drawer! I also have another drawer with a BP monitor, a thermometer and my heating pad. And don’t even get me started on my purse… medication overload!” – Elizabeth W.
9. “My hair’s a mess because I’m flaring, my face is much redder than usual and I’m rugged up even though it’s heated inside. This photo was taken by my workmate who thinks it’s lovely, but all I see is how much pain I’m masking.” – Sarah E.
10. “I recently opened a franchise that teaches kids how to code. We’ve been doing a lot of events both indoors and outdoors. It takes a lot out of me. I have fibromyalgia and several issues relating to spinal pain. I am on my feet a lot during events and sitting long hours doing behind the scenes work.” – MJ N.
11. “I was attending a conference. It was cold, but I was the coldest person in the room. My conditions make me extra cold, so I always have a wrap or blanket. I also had to stack my ‘spoons’ because my schedule was off that week due to the sessions.” – Jae M.
12. “After 10 hours on my feet and still have several more to go.” – Courtney R.
13. “Sometimes working with disability and chronic illness is looking more disabled and sick than the people who frequent the medical clinic and hospital I work with. This was taken this morning while I was dropping my lunch in the fridge in the break room. I had a little girl look at me as I was walking out and say something about my crutches, to which the mother hushed her. I work four-hour shifts because my body can’t currently handle a full eight-hour shift. It’s frustrating to see people my age, or younger, working full shifts. My crutches have a spot in the office where they sit that’s pretty much the ‘crutches spot.’” – Saylor A.
14. “Sitting up on a couch [while working]” – Sarah D.
15. “For me, working in the warehouse from 7:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. looks just like everyone else. That is until I have a really bad day when the energy drinks just don’t cut it any more. But thankfully, I have really understanding friends and a manager that has CFS too which helps so much. He understands sometimes that I have to call in last minute when I can’t wake myself up from a quick nap before work or if I have a sleep attack during the day. A supportive work place makes all the difference.” – Caitlan F.
16. “I used to do medical billing and worked full time on a computer. It got so hard to just stay upright that as I got more and more fatigued, I would slump at my keyboard.” – Roberta P.
17. “Here’s me hiding in the bathroom for a second to catch my breath and to splash some water on my face to try and stay cool in an extremely hot cotton mill. Also, check out that nice knee pad [I’m wearing] to try and prevent all of the bruises that continue to pop up on my knees. Sadly, I couldn’t continue working here. One of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I loved it, and it’s so frustrating for me.” – Kaitlyn B.
18. “I teach English online to kids in China! Best job ever! The company is great and the kids are amazing. It’s rewarding and the company has been great about my cancellations for my health issues. I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, POTS and migraines, so I do have to cancel classes occasionally. However, these kids make me smile and feel needed and loved. It’s nice to be able to work again, especially doing something I love!” –Elyse B.
19. “I almost always have my heating pad on because of crazy back pain. I also have a blanket under my desk for when my Raynaud’s acts up and my feet get really cold.” – Amber B.
Want to know more about working while living with a chronic illness? Here are some related articles:
- 22 People Share the Hidden Reality of Working Full-Time With Chronic Illness
- Just Because I’m Working, That Doesn’t Mean My Illness Got ‘Better’
- 15 Memes That Nail What It’s Like Working With a Chronic Illness