Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Coping when unable to work (Part one).

When you have lost something as precious as your health it's natural to mourn. But if the loss of good health means that holding down a job has become impossible, this can give way to a grief and sadness that's hard to get the upper hand of.

If we were to look permanently in the rear view mirror whilst driving, ultimately, we'd crash. So too, if we keep dwelling on the life we had before poor health hit us, we'll find it hard to move forward. Like the driver, we must focus primarily on what's in front of us.

I grapple daily with an overwhelming sense of failure and frustration at now being unable to work. So, I've written three posts primarily for those unable to work due to poor health and it's my hope that in doing so it will help me to overcome my own personal sense of shame and embarrassment.

1) There is a proverb that says: With knowledge a man increases his power.

Reading up on our condition (whatever it may be) can have a two-fold, positive effect.  Firstly it validates everything we feel. It's a relief to see in black and white that it's neither laziness nor lack of motivation that's the cause of your plight but very real symptoms. Secondly, gathering information helps to keep you abreast of available treatments and coping techniques. It helps you see that your life may have changed but it is not over. But oh how slickly this slips from the tongue! Acceptance, just like the loss of a loved one is so hard. Yet, whereas a diagnosis closed doors, acceptance can open new ones.

2) It's not the illness that tests us but our attitude to the illness. Undoubtedly, our biggest battle takes place in the mind. (This maybe obvious if dealing with depression or anxiety but less so if diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a sleeping disorder or multiple sclerosis, to use just a few examples.) The illness may dictate big changes in our circumstances but we are in charge of our response to the illness. Succumbing to despair is to perhaps insist on looking through the rear view mirror instead of what's ahead.

3) Remember what cannot be changed. In all probability, our illness has had little impact on the qualities peculiar to us. For example, your empathy, your warm smile, kindness, the ability to be a good friend or appreciate beauty. What's more, our own poor health can sharpen our empathic skills, perhaps enabling us to become more sensitive to the struggles and pain of others.

To accept, adjust and act on what we can do is far healthier way forward.

Tomorrow in part 2, I will list some practical dos and don'ts that can help elevate our self-esteem and keep our mood buoyant if currently unable to work due to ongoing health challenges.

Suzy
A Moodscope user.