So I’m done with my job now, in what ended as a spectacular failure. And I am so disappointed with the way everything ended that I can’t even put it into words.
I’ve learned that there is no such thing as a reliable “sign” of whether something will be good or bad, no matter how much we want to find one. Because I really thought I had found every possible sign that this was the right job for me and I really believed I’d work there for at least 10 years.
I have overcome some amazing odds in my lifetime, like starting college with three kids under 6 and no childcare and going on to graduate magna cum laude; moving down from Michigan to Texas by myself on a small amount of crowdfunded money and somehow making a way to get my husband and kids here; and the fact that my very first-ever published writing anywhere was in a real-life book.
But I have also learned that despite my amazing successes in life, my illness has officially, definitively clipped my wings. I felt like I had so much to prove with this job. When I was younger, I quit a lot of jobs in relatively short succession. I was determined to stick this one out. In fact, I told everyone that this was my dream job, which it was. I always wanted a full-time, in-office job writing about medicine. I absolutely loved the work I did.
Despite my determination, my body betrayed me in ways more stunning and swift than I ever imagined possible. I had fully recovered from the devastating MS relapse I had last September, thanks to months of physical and occupational therapy. I had regained my ability to write with a pen, which I had lost for several months.
Then the job changed all that. My health started declining nearly immediately.
By the second week on the job, I realized that the team itself was not as awesome as I thought in the interview. It was a fairly unhealthy work environment in which I got zero training and was expected to learn by failure instead, which was too stressful for me to handle. I got the sinking feeling early on that I didn’t fit in, which tended to become self-perpetuating. The less I felt like I fit in, the more I kept to myself, ensuring the continuation of the problem. And stress makes my health worse.
Despite all this, I kept soldiering on. I wanted this job more than any other that I’ve had in my life. I was more than desperate to make it work.
But my illness came back with a vengeance, due to not getting as much sleep as I needed and the fact that the job was much more stressful than it appeared during the interview. The fact that I had so little work to do should have made it less stressful too, but the lack of training on the things I admitted upfront I didn’t know how to do made it very stressful — and that always takes a toll on me.
Add to that the fact that I didn’t fit in with my team and I just spent every day feeling worse, both physically and mentally.
My body fought back and it was cumulative. From the first week, I had to come home from work and take a nap after dinner, waking up only to spend an hour a night with my husband before going back to bed. My relationships with both my husband and kids started to suffer because I was always asleep or wiped out.
Within three weeks, I wasn’t recovering over the weekends either. I tried taking entire weekend days in which I didn’t even leave the house in hopes that I would recuperate, even though that was the only time I had during the week for anything I enjoyed.
I know about the worst-case scenarios of multiple sclerosis, particularly the secondary-progressive version that I have (which is the type where you’re unlikely to ever get better, despite what some rare individuals say otherwise.)
But then I started to decline so quickly at work that I actually could see myself getting really bad — and I could see it happening quickly.
I started getting 30-second periods when I would completely lose my sight, even while I was at work. It was pretty terrifying to go temporarily blind on a regular basis.
My balance got worse. By the end of each week, my walking would be extremely unsteady and my foot drop would get more pronounced. I was running into walls and losing my balance and couldn’t walk in a straight line.
I was essentially doing just as badly as I was while I was recovering from my relapse last fall, which the doctors described as nearly indistinguishable from a stroke.
So even though I had so much to prove, I couldn’t ultimately stick it out.
I am mad at my body for taking my choices away from me. This was my dream job – or at least the work was my dream, even if I worked with some rude and unprofessional people. Even just five years ago, I would have stayed, stirred up shit when necessary to make improvements in the department (and I could already see many ways in which it was necessary) and outlasted all of the unprofessional people until they quit or got fired. But now I can’t do it at all. They outlasted me and I’m the one who looks bad.
Yet ironically, even though my health was falling apart in every other way, I could still write great articles. Writing was the core part of me that remained, the skill I didn’t lose, no matter how completely my brain and body were otherwise shutting down.
That’s always been the case: even while hospitalized last year with my worst relapse ever, I still wrote articles and met my deadlines (even if it took me twice as long to type and to coordinate my thoughts.)
I didn’t want to be a freelancer as my only source of income anymore. Even though me working at home works a lot better for our family and we’re used to it, I wanted to pursue a full-time career outside the home. And now I just don’t have that choice.
To make matters worse, I approached some of my former clients already to see if they needed more work and they don’t.
I don’t know how I’ll get more money now. I’m going to have to go back to looking for brand-new clients again, and that just sounds exhausting and discouraging. I was doing so well with getting new work before starting this job and I lost that momentum.
I looked back through my Instagram account at my life in the past couple years when I was working from home and doing so gave me moments of hope. I saw that my life was overall pretty decent. We had everything we needed. We found a beautiful house to live in that was in way better condition than you normally find in our price range. We managed to get a new car for me.
I had clients coming to me for work throughout the year. Some I only worked with for a few months and then they stepped out of the picture. I don’t know if it’s that I didn’t do a good job or they just decided they didn’t need more work done (my insecurity always tells me it’s the former, but I know the nature of freelance work can be irregular.) The point is that even though my work was irregular, there was always enough of it. I always got a new client just in time.
So maybe the universe is telling me to rest. I think it’s going to take me a while to recover from what I’ve just been through. I have to see if I can get my health back to where it was just six weeks ago.
And I have to figure out how to adjust to the new reality of my life that I can’t work full-time even if I want to, and I don’t know if that means going on disability or trying harder to get well or some other possibility.
This is really not what I wanted or expected out of my life.