Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Virtual Book Tour: "Women Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working Girlfriend"

It is my pleasure today to present a guest post written by Rosalind Joffe, co-author of "Women Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working Girlfriend!". Rosalind, president of, a resource for professionals with chronic illness, is a chronic illness career coach. In addition, she is also a chronic illness patient herself, so she has a unique understanding and perspective on the subject of working and chronic illness.

This guest post is part of Ms. Joffe's virtual book tour, which started on Nov. 3, 2008 at Rhymes With Migraine and has included guest posts, interviews and book reviews related to her new book. For more information on all the stops of the tour, or to purchase a copy of Rosalind's book, please visit her website at

Chronic illness makes it impossible to keep working. You've hit the wall. Clearly you've got to do something different, but what?

Maybe you stopped working to get your mental, physical and psychic energy back. But when (and if) you're ready to return to work, are you asking yourself: if I couldn't do that job before, what makes me think I can do it now? What if nothing has really changed? The same symptoms that get worse and better over time are still there. Add the repetitive stressors you had at work and you know you'll be out of work again.

This is a pretty typical scenario for people with debilitating chronic illness symptoms. It's tough to give up a career track, especially when you've put time, energy and money into training and developing skills.

When you can't use your skills (e.g., a plastic surgeon, has multiple sclerosis and has numb fingers) or you can't do the jobs that are available for people with your skills (e.g., a day care center manager with severe chronic asthma and can't be around young children), you might feel hopeless about ever working again.

I describe the value of work in my book, Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working Girlfriend! I've learned that although I live with with multiple sclerosis, I need to work. Yes, for financial reasons, but primarily, for the mental stimulation and emotional reward. I worked even when it meant recasting my skills in a different arena and drastic pay cut.

For some, working may be an impossible task. For many, however, working is an option if only we think about it differently. Think differently about the salary you need, the amount and degree of responsibilities you accept, and your life goals, you're more likely to develop a new career that allows you to be more than just your illness.

This isn't a simple thing to do. It requires you take a strategic, long view. It's also helpful if you can develop your capacity to live with hope (which I describe in detail in chapter 9 of the book).

I do have a suggestion for how to approach this. Figure out what engages you and you like to do. "Finding your passion" is a popular idea but I think that's a bit extreme. Most of us can be satisfied by what is interesting and even compelling. When you put your limited time and resources toward stuff that really makes you rock, you're more likely to be good at it.

And, getting very good at what you do is key. Being good at something (that you CAN do) makes you marketable. Any kind of work that creates new opportunities and improves your skills is good work at this point. Don't be distracted by the pay for now (unless, of course you've got a higher paying job offer that you can do).

Just focus on asking yourself: Do I like this and can I do it? Let's face it, chronic illness symptoms are a disadvantage. But when you get very good at something that you CAN DO, you've created an advantage for yourself.

Please be sure to check all the stops on the virtual tour, as each post and interview will give you more insight into Rosalind's book. Tomorrow Rosalind will be posting on The ICIExperience, so be sure to check out what she has to say there as well. Thanks for the post Rosalind, and good luck with the rest of the tour!


Anonymous said...

I'm finishing up her book to prep a review (I know, I'm late in the game) and this post reminded me of a thought I've had a few times while reading it. The trouble I have, and have heard from others, is the ability for us to be objective with ourselves. When we're ill, sometimes those negative messages tend to ring out much louder than the positive ones and makes really seeing our actual potential pretty difficult.

Perhaps through our blog rolls, we can tap into those we 'trust' to help us see those hidden talents that we don't see or give ourselves credit for.

Thanks for hosting this, Maureen. I enjoy following your thoughts here.

Take care~

Maureen Hayes said...


What a great point you bring up! I think that is very true, we all tend to let the negative drown out the positive. I LOVE your idea of using our trusted friends on our blog rolls as a resource to help support us and point out the strengths we possess.

Thanks for an insightful comment! I hope others will join in the conversation. . .


Ailurophile said...

Great post. Yep it's important to keep working for mental and physical stimulation. It keeps you occupied and happy. Hope you have a great day :)

Maureen Hayes said...

This is in response to Cats reply, but also something I want to clarify for others who are reading this particular post and the comments, I personally do not work, I am on disability for my illness. I say that because I want to be honest about my own situation, and also because it is the truth for many of us with chronic illness. While I agree with Rosalind that working can be important for helping to maintain a healthy sense of self and a feeling of purpose, I don't think it is the ONLY way to achieve that (nor do I think Rosalind is saying that!) and of course, it may not be a possibility for each of us depending on what our physical limitations and work experience is.

I think, and for me this is the important point, finding purpose and meaning in your life, whether you work or not, is what is critical for those of us with chronic illness. Trying not to let the illness define us, but finding those parts of ourselves that feed us and using them to the best of our ability. I don't feel any less important because I don't have a paying job (although the money would help!!!), because I know my value as a human and all that I add to world by being me. That is what I wish for everyone with chronic illness, whether they work or not.

Thanks for the comments and the discussion. I would welcome others input into this subject as I think it is something we all struggle with.