Being a Young Professional with a Chronic Illness

Being young and being ill are not mutually exclusive. Most people look at me and see a perfectly healthy young woman. I have no obvious outward ailments, but that’s the problem with illness. It doesn’t always show on the surface and even when I am feeling symptomatic I may not allow others to see how much pain I am in.

I suffer from a chronic condition dubbed IBS, which means that I have bouts of extreme pain and nausea that can come on suddenly at any time for no known reason. My doctors are constantly attempting to find triggers or natural aids so I can remain functional. But, of course, there are flare days. These days are filled with stabbing pains, fatigue, sweats, chills, nausea, fog, and maybe a few unpleasant tangos in the restroom. It’s hard to function in an office environment when you feel like your organs have been brutally beaten and mangled.

As a young professional I don’t have the same flexibility as my older peers. I haven’t yet earned the additional personal days, flex time, or established a long-term reputation as a dedicated responsible employee. All of these things mean that I need to go to work regardless of my physical condition. If I’m not contagious I’m dragging myself in. But, reality check, sometimes I don’t have the energy after an attack to make myself soup more or less wear heels and walk into my office building smiling all day. So what do I do? I haven’t figured it out yet. So far I’ve managed to abate the attacks and confine them to weekends and nights with a carefully balanced regiment of 409080Stomach Ease tea (thank you, Yogi, you have saved me!!!!!), soup, and Ritz crackers. I could probably single-handedly maintain the Ritz empire with my consumption of crackers alone.

For me, the support of my family and friends has been invaluable as I’m trying to find the work-life balance I need in order to maintain my health. Surrounding myself with people that want me to succeed has made a large difference in my motivation to find new ways to help manage my illness and take back control over my life. As I continue to find my way I want to share anything I learn with my readers, and I’d love to hear about how you’ve managed to navigate the rocky road to work-health balance!